Friday, October 17, 2008

What’s At Stake in La-Z-Boy Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

LawyersAndSettlements.com has an interview with attorney Lauren Scholnick, whose firm is representing former furniture plant employees in a wrongful termination suit against La-Z-Boy. They are seeking class action status. Scholnick’s clients have alleged that La-Z-Boy had a pattern of firing employees who filed workers’ compensation claims. In most states, such retaliation is prohibited by law, but in Utah, where the suit was filed, there’s no such protection. It’s also interesting to note that La-Z-Boy was self-insured and did not participate in the state workers’ compensation pool, giving the company additional incentive to reduce it workers’ compensation costs.

Scholnick outlines some of the facts of the La-Z-Boy wrongful termination lawsuit in her Q&A with the Web site:

    Scholnick describes the La-Z-Boy case, Touchard v La-Z-Boy, first filed in 2004, as "sort of monumental for Utah workers in a bunch of ways. It's a wrongful termination case; most employees are protected from retaliation under state statute—they can't be fired, treated badly or demoted for using workers' compensation. In Utah, we didn't have any such protections under state statute, and up until La-Z-Boy there hadn't been a tort case establishing a protection from retaliation under common law."

    The case centers on wrongful termination of workers at the La-Z-Boy recliner plant in Tremonton, Utah, who had filed for workers' compensation for work-related injuries. Scholnick says, "The plant had 1000 employees and almost all of them had had some sort of injury—the plant was not very mechanized, so there was a lot of heavy lifting of mattresses and so on, a lot of repetitive stapling and sewing, and a lot of repetitive stress injuries…

    "There are a few different aspects to the remedy we're seeking—the first is to reopen the workers' compensation claims for the people who were denied treatment, benefits, or payouts because they were discouraged or terminated. That's an equitable remedy that will require re-examination of the claims, and the judge could handle it in different ways.

    "Because it's a wrongful termination case, we're entitled to tort remedies, so we were seeking back pay, reinstatement and back pay, or reinstatement and front pay. However, we just found out that La-Z-Boy is closing the plant in June, which makes reinstatement and front pay both impossible. So since La-Z-Boy has cut off front pay and reinstatement, what they'd be entitled to is back pay damages and punitive damages, as well as attorneys' fees and costs."


You can read more of the interview at LawyersAndSettlements.com