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Workers’ Compensation Retaliation in Iowa

KIMT.com reports that a former Winnebago Industries employee recently filed a lawsuit accusing her former employer of engaging in workers’ compensation retaliation. Workers’ compensation retaliation is illegal and occurs when an employer retaliates against an injured employee for filing seeking workers’ compensation benefits. Such retaliation can take a number of different forms but often includes bogus write-ups, assigning the employee unfavorable shifts as punishment, and even termination. The former Winnebago employee claims that she suffered a workplace injury to her knee that affected her ability to kneel and bend, and that as a result she should have been considered disabled. Her lawsuit also asserts that the company refused to recognize her injury as a legal disability and ultimately fired her for pursuing workers’ compensation benefits.

Legal Protections in Iowa Against Workers’ Compensation Retaliation

In Iowa, employer-employee relationships are governed by the at-will employment doctrine which states that an employee can be fired at any time for any reason, or for no reason at all. While this is the general rule, there are several important exceptions. For example, one source notes that Iowa recognizes a public policy exception to the general rule and prohibits employers in the state from firing an employee for a reason that violates public policy. Therefore, because Iowa’s workers’ compensation statute provides qualifying employees with the right to collect workers’ compensation benefits, an employer who retaliates against them for attempting to collect these benefits would be going against public policy. Case law in Iowa has clearly established that firing an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim is against public policy, and therefore is illegal.

The burden of proof in a workers’ compensation retaliatory discharge case brought in Iowa is on the plaintiff (the former employee). In order to prevail, the plaintiff must show that their decision to seek workers’ compensation benefits was a “determining factor” in the employer’s decision to fire them. Courts in Iowa have defined a determining factor as one that tips the scales decisively in one direction or the other. In other words, simply showing that an employer fired an employee after they filed for workers’ compensation benefits would not be sufficient. The former employee must show that the fact that they were seeking benefits was a determining factor in the decision to terminate them.

Statute of Limitations

Employees who believe that their employer engaged in retaliatory practices against them should act quickly if they want to file a retaliation claim in Iowa. Our state has a statute of limitations that prevents most wrongful termination lawsuits from being filed more than five years after the retaliatory action allegedly occurred. However, it is important to consult was a competent workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible because in some situations the employee will have much less time to act. For example, some public employees are required to file a claim with the public employment relations board within 30 days of being fired.

How Can We Help?

If you filed a workers’ compensation claim in Iowa and believe that your company illegally retaliated against you, contact the experienced workers’ compensation lawyers at the Noyes Law Office, P.C. as soon as possible. Our attorneys are committed to protecting workers’ rights and would be happy to discuss your legal options with you during a free consultation. Contact our office in Fairfield today at 800-875-7148.

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