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North Carolina Court of Appeals Says Anti-Retaliation Law Protects Threatened Workers' Comp Claim

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  • April 27, 2012

North Carolina Court of Appeals Says Anti-Retaliation Law Protects Threatened Workers' Comp Claim

The North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA) prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise rights under a number of state laws, including Workers' Compensation laws. Last week, the North Carolina Court of Appeals concluded that REDA's protections extend to employees who have threatened but not actually filed a Workers' Comp claim.

In Fatta v. M & M Properties, Mgmt., Inc., the plaintiff alleged that he was terminated several days after informing his employer of his intent to file a claim for a workplace injury. He was terminated for performance reasons a few days after this disclosure, and filed suit under REDA, claiming that the termination was in retaliation for the threatened Comp action.

The Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of the claim, concluding that the plaintiff had no evidence of retaliation other than the temporal proximity between the disclosure and his termination. This connection alone was not enough to support his claim. However, in its decision, the Court of Appeals rejected the employer's contention that the case should be dismissed because REDA only protects against retaliation once a Workers' Comp claim has actually been filed.

The court rejected the employer's reading of prior cases, concluding that the threat of filing of a Workers' Comp claim could be a protected activity, even if the employee did not actually file the claim until after the alleged retaliatory conduct occurred. In its Pierce decision last month (as reported in the March 23 EmployNews), the court said that REDA requires that the employee do something more than complain to supervisors to fall under the law's protections. Based on this new decision, threatening to actually file a complaint or claim with the government agency will satisfy this burden.