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WORKERS COMPENSATION RETALIATION

Minnesota law protects workers who seek workers compensation benefits.

Minnesota law guarantees that injured employees have the right to seek workers compensation benefits without interference or retaliation from their employers.  If your employer tries to persuade or convince you not to apply for benefits – or worse, terminates you after you apply for workers compensation benefits – then your employer has broken the law.

First, you need to show that you sought, or were seeking, workers compensation benefits after getting hurt or injured at work.  This is usually pretty easy to do, as Minnesota law says that – as soon as a worker suffers a workplace injury – the law presumes that they are seeking workers compensation benefits.  So, of course if you notify your employer that you were injured, file a workers compensation claim, take steps to file a workers compensation claim, or hire a workers compensation lawyer, then you are seeking workers compensation benefits.  But, for purposes of the law, even if you haven’t done those things, the law presumes that you were seeking workers compensation benefits if you suffer an injury at work.

Next, our employment lawyers will show that your employer interfered with you seeking workers compensation benefits, or retaliated against you for seeking those benefits.

Interference generally means that your employer tried to persuade you to not pursue workers compensation benefits, by threatening you or setting up obstacles to your receipt of benefits. We can establish this through your testimony, the testimony of other witnesses, and cross examination of your manager or supervisors.

Retaliation usually comes in the form of termination after you apply for workers compensation.  The employer usually won’t admit that it terminated an employee for seeking workers compensation benefits – they’re too sophisticated for that.  Instead, your employer will make up and offer a different, lawful reason for termination.  Oftentimes, the employer will say that they’re terminating you because you didn’t report the injury right away.

In order to win on a workers compensation retaliation claim, employment lawyers have to prove that the reason offered by the employer is a pretextual reason that is just being said so that your employer can avoid having to say the actual, illegal reason for termination – workers compensation retaliation.

We’ve got a couple ways to prove pretext on behalf of employees. First, we try to demonstrate that the reason given by the employer is just factually wrong. So, for example, if your employer claims that it terminated you because you didn’t make the claim right away, but actually gave you notice of the claim to your boss or supervisor right away but just said you wanted some time to see if it actually developed into an injury before you made a claim, then we’ve created a fact question for a jury regarding whether the reason given by the employer is the real reason for termination, or just pretext to mask whistleblower retaliation.

Second, we can prove that the reason given by the employer isn’t the real reason for termination because it wasn’t equally applied to similarly situated employees. So, if your employer claims that it terminated you for poor performance, but your peers actually had equal or worse performance reviews than you – or documented performance problems that you didn’t have – than we’ve created a fact issue regarding whether the employer’s stated reason for termination is the actual reason, or just pretext to mask whistleblower retaliation.

Third, we’ll look to the “temporal proximity” of your injury and claim compared to the employer’s action against you.  That basically means we’ll see how much time passed between your injury and/or workers compensation blaim and when your employer terminated you, wrote you up, reduced your hours, or otherwise retaliated against you.  Many employers are so careless that they’ll take action against injured employees within days or weeks.  If your employer took action against you very shortly after you made your work injury, that’s great evidence of workers compensation retaliation – especially if you’ve worked there for a good amount of time.

If you get injured on the job, and your employer has light duty work available that fits within your medical restrictions, Minnesota law requires your employer to transfer you to that light duty position.

No – that’s the whole point.  Just because you get injured at work and seek workers compensation benefits that you’re entitled to, your employer can’t retaliate against you in any way.

This is absolutely a good question to ask as you make a decision on whether to pursue a case in court or not.  Starting an employment case is a big decision and you should know what your potential return is for the investment of your time and energy. The short answer is that the value of your case depends on a lot of things, like:
  • the strength of your case on the merits;
  • the amount of damages you’ve suffered;
  • whether your employer has the ability to pay a large amount; and
  • your tolerance for risk.

We get this question so much that we’ve created a separate, detailed page going through each of these factors, right here.  Check it out – it will give you a good idea of what to expect when we talk about your case at your free consultation.

For retaliation claims under the Minnesota Workers Compensation Act, you may be entitled to back pay and front pay damages, and emotional distress and other compensatory damages, punitive damages, and your attorney fees and costs.

First of all, if you’re searching for answers right now, we’re very sorry that you’re in this position.  We know how tough it is to lose your job, especially when you’ve got family and other financial obligations.  It’s especially frustrating and hurtful when the termination is just because you stuck up and did the right thing.

Second, make sure that take advantage of state benefits designed to help people going through tough times.  Apply for unemployment benefits – here’s a link.  And, contact COBRA to make sure you and your family are covered for health insurance.

Third, write everything down that happened to you.  Write down the date that you were terminated, who terminated you, what they precisely said was the reason for your termination, and who else was present.  Write down whether you think the reason your employer gave you was accurate or not, and why.  Write down the names of employees that you think may have useful information.  Write down the types of documents or emails that you think may have good information about your case.  Write down everything – the reason for this is that your memory will probably fade over time and you want to document things while they’re fresh in your mind.  If you pursue a lawsuit, your trial likely won’t be for at least 12 to 18 months, so you want to have something that you can refer to – write everything down.

Fourth, immediately send a letter or email request to your employer requesting your personnel file and the reason for your termination.  Under Minnesota law, your employer needs to provide it to you.  If your employer hasn’t paid you all of your wages or given you your last paycheck, make sure to request those wages in writing also (by letter or email).

Fifth, call us for a free consultation to talk about your case.

You’ve got 6 years from the date of the termination or retaliation to bring your lawsuit.

Contact Our Minneapolis and St. Paul Workers Compensation Retaliation Attorneys for a Free Consultation.

All consultations are freeDuring your consultation, we’ll discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your case, the potential value of your case (e.g. how much your case is worth), and the best way to proceed.

There’s some information that we’ll need when you call, so if possible, please have it handy, including: who did you work for what did you do how long did you work there how much did you earn when were you terminated what was the reason given by your employer for your termination and why do you think the termination was unlawful or wrongful. If you have this information handy, it will allow us to proceed to the heart of your case very quickly and give you good legal advice.

The process for a free consultation with our employment lawyers is pretty simple. First, call our firm. You’ll talk to a clerk for about 5-10 minutes. They’ll get some basic information about you and your case.

About 3 or 4 hours later, you’ll get a call from us. If you’ve got a case that’s a little outside our wheelhouse, then we’ll will call you and give you a referral for an attorney that we think is better suited to handle your case. Our number one goal is to make sure you get the best representation possible for your particular matter – if that’s not us, we’ll tell you immediately and get you to someone else that we trust.

If we think that we can help you, then someone will call you and set an appointment for you to talk to one of our employment lawyers. We’ll call you at time that works for you and discuss your case and give you our honest assessment of its strengths, weaknesses, and value. We’ll then set a time where you can come to our office and meet your employment lawyer personally – at that time, we’ll discuss your case in more detail, sign a contingency fee retainer agreement, and talk about the process of moving forward with your case.

When you come in to meet your employment lawyer, please bring all relevant documents that you want us to look at, including: pay-stubs personnel file (if you have it) employment handbook (if you have it) any letters from your employer, including your termination letter any text messages or emails that you think are important and any other documents that you think might be helpful.

THE MADIA LAW WAY

We have a process that works in getting exceptional results for our clients. 

We are trial lawyers who prepare every case for trial from Day 1. Investigation and legal research are the first things we do, and we spend a lot of time on them. Because we haven’t filed the case yet, we have complete control – the defendant has no say and we want to use this time wisely.  We interview witnesses that can help us prove the case.  We’ll ask you for all relevant documents in your possession and review those carefully as well.  We also will spend some time conducting legal research about unique issues in the case.  We pull the jury instructions that the judge will ultimately charge the jury with after closing arguments at trial. 

Our next step is typically to send a demand letter to the defendant. In the letter, we thoroughly lay out: the facts surrounding the defendant’s misconduct; the applicable law (including statutory and case citations) that make clear that the defendant broke the law; an analysis of your damages and the defendant’s monetary exposure; a demand for a monetary amount to settle the claim; and an instruction to preserve all relevant evidence, including electronic evidence. The point of this letter is to give the defendant a chance to do the right thing and pay a fair amount before litigation, and to give the defendant an opportunity to present any defenses or evidence it wants us to consider before moving forward.  Sometimes we skip the demand letter if there are strategic reasons to move straight to filing, but we typically give defendants a chance to do the right thing.

If early negotiations fail, great – we file a Complaint and serve the defendant with it. A Complaint is a legal document that states the facts of what happened and alleges how the defendant broke the law. It formally starts the lawsuit.  Many lawyers draft complaints in a general and relatively vague way, just to get it done and filed – because that’s all that’s really required.  We take a different view. We view the Complaint as our first chance to tell your story to the judge, and we take it seriously. So we draft detailed complaints and include legal citations to statutory and judicial authority on unique points.  Sometimes we’ll include a number of exhibits, diagrams, or other demonstrative aids to help the Court understand our claims.  A secondary benefit of this approach is that defense lawyers reading the Complaint can become educated on the problems of their case and the state of the law – sometimes this leads them to reach out to us shortly after service of the Complaint to re-initiate settlement negotiations.  Of course, by that time, the price for settlement has gone up.

Some lawyers view written discovery as a necessary evil – something to get done and out of the way before depositions.  Not us.  Written discovery is a gift and an opportunity.  We spend a great deal of time crafting requests for documents and interrogatories (questions for the defendant to answer in writing) that are specific, detailed, and tailored to get what we need to prove our case.  Many lawyers – even great ones – think written discovery is a waste of time because defense lawyers typically answer them on behalf of their clients and can try to stonewall with legalese and objections.  We view this as a wonderful opportunity.  In our experience, most defense lawyers can’t help themselves when answering discovery: they over-state their defenses and make assertions that their clients will not be able to support in testimony. So we get to commit the defendant to defenses that they can’t back up, leading to contradictions, confusion, and chaos in their depositions later on.  We also use Requests for Admission – which many lawyers don’t.  The Federal Rules and Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure allow us to ask defendants to “admit” certain facts.  We send them RFAs that are very difficult for them to deny.  Of course, they do it anyway, but that sets them up later for cost and fee-shifting, which the Rules mandate for defendants that deny RFAs that are later proven true.  And usually, we can get the defendants’ own witnesses to admit facts that their defense lawyers denied in RFA.  That’s a great situation that leads to more chaos and confusion on the defense side.

One last point on written discovery – we send multiple waves of it throughout discovery.  We typically send 3 or 4 sets of written discovery requests to defendants throughout discovery.  This compounds the problems for them, because the defense lawyers continue to overstate their defenses, but now run into contradictions from not just the defendant witnesses’ deposition testimony, but also their own previous discovery responses.  This makes for a great record that we can present to the judge at dispositive motions, and use for impeachment at trial.

This is our chance to question relevant witnesses, on the record with a court reporter (we typically videotape important depositions as well). We get to confront the defense witnesses with all of the evidence we’ve developed through written discovery and document production. By this time, the defendant put its witnesses in an impossible position through its written defenses, which are often untrue and indefensible.  So the witness has to either lie to support the defense, or admit it’s not true.  That’s a dilemma that works for our clients either way, no matter which option the witness takes.  We use depositions to expose contradictions, create a record for dispositive motions, lock witnesses into their stories so that we can impeach them later at trial, and sometimes, to show defense lawyers how hopeless their case is.  We often calls from defense counsel shortly after depositions of their clients, seeking to re-start settlement negotiations.

The defendant will usually make a motion for summary judgment after discovery, asking the Court to throw out the case without having a jury trial. Because we’ve hit discovery so hard – both through written discovery and depositions – this is a tough motion for defense counsel to write in our cases.  We draft our response for the Court and now get to bring everything together: the admissions, contradictions, nonsense, and obvious fact disputes that we’ve uncovered through discovery.  We tell a compelling story that wraps everything together for the Court and makes clear that the defense motion has to be denied, and the defendant needs to face a jury for its conduct.

Sometimes, we’ll even make an affirmative motion for summary judgment, asking the Court to grant judgment in favor of our client without a trial. These motions are generally rare for plaintiffs to make, because the defendant can usually point to some fact dispute on its intent or some other factor that necessitates a trial. But we make affirmative summary judgment motions significantly more than is typical for plaintiffs, and that’s because the work we put in during discovery helps build a fantastic record to do so.

After the Court denies the defense motion for summary judgment, the defendant has only 2 options: 1) do the right thing and pay you a fair amount to our client to settle your claim (usually much, much more at this point than the defendant could have paid at the beginning of the case to settle); or 2) face a jury for its conduct and risk an enormous verdict. This is the dilemma that we have been creating and forcing the defendant into for the entire case. We’ll engage in settlement negotiations at this point from a position of extreme strength, mainly because most defendants are (rightly) terrified of facing a jury to defend their conduct.

This is, candidly, our favorite part of the case – why we went to law school: to hold the powerful accountable before juries.  We prepare heavily for trial, including: detailed witness preparation, focus groups, and mock trials.  At this point, the potential outcomes and consequences for the defendant are much more severe than if it simply did the right thing at the beginning of the case and paid a fair amount to compensate our client for its misconduct.  As we advocate to the jury for our client, we’re also mindful of protecting the record so that defendants will be unsuccessful in attacking the verdict in post-trial motions or appeal.

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