There are some employers who foster a work atmosphere where employees believe they could be subject to retaliation for filing a worker’s compensation claim.

In Kentucky, that kind of retaliation is against the law.

Kentucky is an at-will state

Kentucky, like many states, is an at-will state. This means that employers can fire any employee at their discretion, and they don’t have to provide any notice or any reason why they fired the employee.

There are limits to the law, however. Retaliating against an employee for engaging in a legally protected act is against the law.

Retaliation can take many forms, including firing, demotion, salary reduction, discipline, or job shift or job reassignment.

When an employee files a claim of retaliation, there are three legal tests the employee must prove:

  • That they were engaged in a protected activity
  • That they were punished in some way
  • That the punishment was the result of engaging in the protected activity

Linking the punishment to the protected activity is usually the most difficult hurdle. The connection can be made through both direct and circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence includes written or verbal statements. Circumstantial evidence can include a dropped promotion or a job reassignment that infers it was due to no other reason than retaliation.

Other wrongful termination applications

There are other actions that can result in wrongful termination. These include:

  • Discrimination against race, gender, disability, religion, national origin, if the employee is older than 40 or is pregnant. However, there is no statewide ban private employers against retaliation over sexual orientation.
  • Refusal to take a lie detector test
  • Complains about OSHA violations or is in any other way a whistleblower
  • Refusal to commit an illegal act such as destroying documents
  • Breach of contract, including implied contracts such as an employee handbook.

A successful lawsuit could require the employer to pay wages, benefits, damages and attorney’s fees.