In Alabama, companies are required to be insured for workers’ compensation so that employees are covered if they get hurt at work. We recently handled a string of cases from one large retail chain that broke the trust of their employees by trying to cheat them out of having their medical bills paid. This company had 8,500 stores with 100,000 employees. Sometimes big companies have their employees’ best interests at heart, but oftentimes they do not.
This company tried to discourage claims by penalizing each store that filed workers’ compensation claims — for each claim filed, the individual store would see a greater and greater loss of profits, lowering employee profit-sharing and bonuses so they were discouraged from filing claims in the first place. When those claims were filed, the company repeatedly tried to fire the injured employee retroactively so they could reject their claims. If the company could retroactively terminate a person who got hurt on the job, they’d save money by not having to pay their medical bills.
Our first big jury verdict in this case involved a woman who was working on Christmas Eve when a cash box fell on her thumb. This injury proved severe because of an infection that led to an amputation of her arm. To her face, her employer told her she would get the best medical care possible, but behind the scenes they searched for a reason to terminate her. When they couldn’t find a reason, they attempted to claim her amputation was not the result of an on-the-job injury, even though her doctors disagreed. After we presented our case, the jury disagreed, too, awarding a 2.3 million-dollar verdict for our client.
We represented another woman who’d worked for this company since she was sixteen years old. She’d worked her way up to management when she had a back injury. When she was eventually cleared to come back to work, the company claimed she couldn’t do her former job of managing — even though she could do everything she’d done in the position before — and they terminated her. The jury awarded 2 million dollars in her case.
In Alabama, your employer has the right to fire you for many reasons, but they cannot terminate you for illegal reasons like the color of your skin, your gender or your age. They cannot terminate you for filing a workers’ compensation claim, and they can’t refuse to pay your medical bills for injuries you sustained in the course of your work.
We see claims like this all the time, and we’ve gotten very good at evaluating cases based on whether or not the client has a chance of winning. We know how to present these cases to a jury, and we know how to win legitimate workers’ compensation cases. When you start messing around with someone’s job, with the way they pay for groceries, they way they take care of their family, the way they feed their kids — juries don’t like that, and they’ll often award big verdicts if the attorneys can give them the means to do so. We’re very good at giving juries those reasons.