Thursday, February 4, 2016

Jury Hits Employer With $2.65 Million Verdict in Workers’ Compensation Retaliation Lawsuit

Late last week, a Cook County Circuit Court jury awarded Rudolph Francek (a former Dominick’s worker) $2.65 million finding that Dominick’s parent company, Safeway, Inc., retaliated against his worker’s compensation claim by firing him.  

Francek filed a lawsuit in Cook County state court alleging he was fired in retaliation for having filed a worker’s compensation claim arising from a shoulder injury.  Francek alleged that Dominick’s fired him after unilaterally changing his absences from excused for injury to “no call, no show” based on an independent medical examination without notice.  After Francek’s third no-call-no show, the company terminated him pursuant to its attendance policy requiring such action.

The employer contended Francek was terminated for “legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons.” The jury disagreed and awarded Francek $31,315.50 in medical, $75,000 for past emotional distress, $50,000 for future emotional and/or psychological damages, and $2.5 million in punitive damages. 

According to the jurors interviewed afterwards, they found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded a substantial punitive damages award against the employer to make sure that Safeway, Inc. does not treat other employees unfairly in the future and to make sure these companies “abide by the law.” 

This huge verdict demonstrates how costly employment lawsuits can be and the high exposure to employers in cases where there is evidence that an employee was treated unfairly.  Ancel Glink’s team of labor and employment attorneys are available to assist in the handling of personnel matters and navigating the maze of laws facing employers in today’s workplace.