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Full Dismissal of Workers’ Compensation Retaliation Claims

News | June 2, 2015

After nearly a year and a half of litigation, Kutak Rock attorneys Marcia Washkuhn and Kasey Cappellano of the firm’s Omaha office obtained an order from the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska granting summary judgment to one of the firm’s employer clients on April 8, 2015. The order resulted in a full dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim alleging workers’ compensation retaliation.

The plaintiff, a former employee of the firm’s client, experienced multiple work injuries during his employment. In his last six months with the employer, he was on light duty and workers’ compensation leave for alternating periods. When his last documented medical leave was expiring, he was notified of the need either to return to work or to provide additional medical documentation of the need to remain on leave. Before his leave expired, the plaintiff turned in a handwritten note asking for additional time off for medical reasons, but he did not include any medical documentation. As a result, he was not granted an extension of leave, and was ultimately terminated for failing to return to work.

The plaintiff sued the company, stating the employer terminated him in retaliation for asserting his rights under Nebraska’s Workers’ Compensation Act. The court rejected the plaintiff’s arguments that the handwritten request for an extension of leave and the significant physical restrictions he was still under due to his work injuries were sufficient to demonstrate the plaintiff’s need for an extension. The court noted the employer’s policies clearly required medical documentation to support an extension of the plaintiff’s medical leave and the plaintiff was aware of these requirements, but nonetheless failed to comply. The court also found that the plaintiff’s arguments regarding pretext, including that the employer had fired the plaintiff in order to save money, were conclusory and unsupported by the evidence.