final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit,
Broward County; Sandra Perlman, Judge; L.T. Case No.
Lawrence J. McGuinness of MG Legal Group, P.A., Coconut
Grove, for appellant.
Kristen D. Perkins and Paige S. Newman of Lewis Brisbois
Bisgaard & Smith LLP, Fort Lauderdale, for appellee.
employee appeals a final summary judgment entered in favor of
the employer on the employee's claim of retaliatory
discharge under section 440.205, Florida Statutes. In
interpreting the statute, the trial court found no prima
facie case of retaliation because the employer terminated the
employee before the employee filed a claim for workers'
compensation benefits. We disagree with the trial court's
interpretation that the employee did not attempt to claim
compensation under the statute. Because a material issue of
fact exists as to the employer's reason for discharge,
summary judgment is not proper at this juncture. We therefore
March 24, 2017, the employee sustained an injury while
performing workplace duties. The employee notified the
employer of the injury the following day and later informed
the employer he was having difficulty receiving follow-up
treatment for his injuries. The employer fired the employee
less than two weeks after the work-related injury.
parties' depositions set forth conflicting reasons for
the discharge. The employer submitted depositions from three
employees describing an incident in which the employee became
angry and threatened a coworker, stating: "I'll take
you outside and beat you with my bad arm." The employee
stepped towards the coworker, but the manager stepped between
them to defuse the situation. Two managers called the
employee on the phone the following day. After the employee
admitted to making the threat, the managers told the employee
that he was being terminated because he threatened another
employee with physical harm. The managers explained to the
employee that the reason for termination had nothing to do
with his injury or seeking workers' compensation
the employee's deposition, the employee denied
threatening his coworker and denied admitting on the phone to
the managers that he threatened the coworker. The employee
claimed that the other employees were lying about the
incident. He further testified that the managers did not give
him a reason for terminating his employment.
his termination, the employee filed a claim for retaliatory
discharge under section 440.205. Subsequently, the employee
filed a petition for workers' compensation benefits. The
employer moved for summary judgment, arguing that the
employee could not establish a prima facie case of
retaliation because his termination was not causally related
to his workers' compensation claim. The employer pointed
out that the employee's termination occurred before he
had filed a petition for benefits. The employer further
argued that they had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason
for terminating the employee.
hearing, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of
the employer, stating:
The undisputed summary judgment evidence before the Court was
that [the employee] filed his Petition for Benefits after his
termination by [the employer]. While [the employee] argues
that he is nevertheless entitled to a presumption of
retaliation based on the circumstantial evidence of temporal
proximity between the filing of the Petition for Benefits and
his termination, this Court finds he is not as Fla. Stat.
§ 440.205 requires a showing of a statutorily protected
activity, an adverse employment action and a causal
connection between the statutorily protected activity and the
adverse employment action. Florida law is clear that solely
suffering a workplace injury and informing the employer of
the injury is not alone an attempt to file a claim or seek
benefits under Florida's Workers' Compensation Act.
Accordingly, as [the employee] has not asserted a prima
facie case of retaliation pursuant to Fla. Stat. §
440.205, [the employer] is entitled to final summary judgment
in its favor on [the employee's] Complaint.
review an order granting summary judgment de novo. Frost
v. Regions Bank, 15 So.3d 905, 906 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009).
"Summary judgment cannot be granted unless the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and the
admissions on file together with affidavits, if any,
conclusively show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law." Hurchalla v. Homeowners Choice
Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 44 Fla.L.Weekly D2527 (Fla.
4th DCA Oct. 16, 2019).
construction is a question of law subject to de novo review.
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