Missouri: Retaliatory Discharge Statute Requires Former Employee to Establish that Exercise of Rights Was Exclusive, Not Merely a Contributing, Factor in Firing

A Missouri appellate court recently affirmed a jury verdict in favor of a former employer on a former employee’s claim of retaliatory discharge and agreed that the former employee was required to show that his exercise of rights under the Workers’ Compensation Act was the exclusive cause, rather than a contributing factor, in his employer’s termination decision [see Templemire v. W&M Welding, Inc., 2012 Mo. App. LEXIS 1639 (Dec. 26, 2012)]. Noting that nothing in the relevant statute, Rev. Stat. Mo. § 287.780, required the application of an “exclusive causation” standard, the court indicated that it was, nevertheless, obligated to follow binding precedent from the state’s Supreme Court. The appellate court indicated the Supreme Court, in Hansome v. Northwestern Cooperage Co., 679 S.W.2d 273 (Mo. banc 1984), laid out the elements a plaintiff must prove to be entitled to relief under the statute: (1) plaintiff’s status as employee of defendant at the time of injury, (2) plaintiff’s exercise of a right granted by Chapter 287, (3) employer’s discharge of or discrimination against plaintiff, and (4) an exclusive causal relationship between plaintiff’s actions and defendant’s actions." [Id. at 275] The appellate court concluded, therefore, that the jury was properly instructed according to the elements of § 287.780 under the most recent decision by the Missouri Supreme Court on point.

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