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WC Retaliation?!?! North Carolina

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  • WC Retaliation?!?! North Carolina

    My husband (let's call him "Lee") began working at a national automotive center franchise approximately three years ago. He was hired on by the franchise owner (we'll call him "Chris") as the 'Shop Supervisor' and the two of them basically designed, stocked, set-up, promoted and worked this shop from the ground up. Things went along well for the first year and a half; the company was making money and everyone was happy!

    Then I had our first child and things kind of went down hill from there. Chris has no children of his own and he doesn't understand the complications that a child can bring into one's life. This first became apparent the day I was released from the hospital (I had a C-section) when Lee informed Chris that he would be taking my release day and the following day off of work to help me adjust as a recovering surgery patient and as a new mother. Lee was told by Chris that he thought I was 'a big girl' and could 'handle it' myself. On another occasion when our son had to be rushed to the ER because he stopped breathing, Chris asked Lee if he was going to take our son to the doctor and miss work every time our child had a runny nose. ::sigh:: To be clear here, my husband has missed a total of three days of work due to our child being sick in the past sixteen months so it's not like he's taking advantage of our kid to get out of work.

    At any rate, things between my husband and Chris became 'strained' as Lee would say that he wanted to leave work at 'quitting time' (6:00pm) so he could come home to his wife and new child. As time went on, Chris began to have 'talks' with my husband about his 'attitude' at work. Chris felt like by Lee wanting to leave at 6:00 and saying things like, 'I have a son who I would like to see before he goes to bed', that that was an attitude that needed to be dealt with.

    Regarding his pay, Lee was not 'salaried' but had 'guaranteed pay' at a set rate every two weeks. Over the course of the past year, Chris has altered Lee's pay time and time again to seemingly reflect his mood.
    1) Decreased his 'guaranteed' pay because the company wasn't making enough money and made him 'store manager' rather than 'shop supervisor', 2) Dropped him down to 'hourly' where he HAD to work minimum 60 hours per week in order to bring home what he was on the decreased 'guaranteed' pay,
    3) Shortened his work week to 45 hours a week + commission (if they make it) because he felt my husband 'was doing half of the work of other employees' and that by making him 'work' for his pay, maybe he would work harder and faster. Also, he demoted him again, this time from 'store manager' to 'technician'.
    *Now let me say this, Lee is a FANTASTIC mechanic. (Before the recession hit the economy, he was a highly sought-after mechanic.) He has NEVER been accused of anything other than being thorough, fair and courteous. He's a fast thinker and a fast worker and has never 'slacked off' at work.*

    Then the week from hell hit....

    Lee took his annual vacation right after Thanksgiving. When he returned to work on Monday, at the end of the day the new store manager held an impromptu little meeting. I had just called Lee on his cell because it was after 7:00pm and our son was being a holy terror and I wanted him home to help me. When he answered his cell, he told me to 'hold on a minute' and held the phone down by his side while this meeting wrapped up. I could hear everything. The new store manager said... "from now on (person's name) is the new shop foreman so in my absence, all questions should go through him. Okay?" When no one responded, he said, "Okay then, that's all." At that point my husband picked his phone up and we continued our conversation as he clocked out, left work and drove home. The next day when he arrived at work he was called into his bosses' office and told that he was going to be fired for 'walking out' of the meeting the night before. Lee explained the situation and how he thought 'that's all' meant that the meeting was over and so he left. The new manager and new shop foreman were on one side saying he walked out and then he was on his own side saying he didn't. At the end of the day Chris pulled Lee aside and said that he believed him and would not fire him.

    Tuesday of that week came and went without incident.

    Wednesday my husband worked 1/2 a day and then went to the doctor because he wasn't feeling well. He was diagnosed with bronchitis and put on antibiotics and nasal spray and written out of work for the rest of the work week. He stayed home for the remainder of Wednesday and all of Thursday and returned to work on Friday.

    On Friday and business was very slow. Trying to find 'something to do' so as to not look like a 'slacker', Lee decided to work on an issue that he and Chris had discussed when they originally opened the shop regarding the relocation of some interior lighting. Leee told a fellow technician that he would be up on the ladder working but to 'just holler' if he (the other tech) needed anything. That's where my husband's memory goes blank. You see, while working on the light fixtures, the extension ladder slipped and he fell approx. 18 feet onto the concrete floor of the shop and was knocked unconscious. He was rushed to the ER where he received a CAT scan of his head, neck, chest and torso and X-rays of both legs and his right arm. Luckily his injuries were not major but his right ankle and knee were badly twisted and his right heel had been fractured and basically shattered. He was released from the ER with an ankle brace and crutches as he could not bear any weight on his right leg and told to follow up with an orthopedist.

    He called his employer once we got out of the ER and told him the situation (his employer was off that Friday in preparation for a holiday party and hadn't been there for the accident). When he told his boss that he wouldn't be back at work until at least Monday, once he was seen by the orthopedist, Chris got very irate and defensive. He ordered us to go to a quick care facility and get drug tested (this was not an issue as my husband is drug free and as I later found out, mandatory in WC cases - again, no problem) and he needed the ER documents immediately and blah, blah, blah. He had us running all over the city to this doctor and that doctor to try to get drug tested because he didn't have a WC account set up anywhere. He even went so far as to ask what kind of medication he was on for his bronchitis and whether there was a warning label on there about 'climbing'. Basically, he was doing whatever he could to NOT allow my husband to file for WC.

    Well, he did file for WC and he did get his benefits and he returned to work approximately 3 weeks after the initial injury.

    My husband returned to work today after being released by his orthopedist. When he returned, he immediately noticed that all of his pictures (on the PC in the shop) were removed and that his tool cart had been rummaged through and all 'shop tools' that belonged to the shop rather than one specific mechanic were removed. Also, he was 'written up' all at once by his boss for the following actions (these took place within a roughly one-year period):
    1) Taking a check from a customer which subsequently bounced and "cost the company" in legal fees to get their money back;
    2) Hitting a bay door with a car (the car's brakes locked up - my hubby had no choice);
    3) Test driving a vehicle after repairs were made and the hubcap flew off and was lost forever;
    4) "Leaving" the meeting (the Monday after he returned from vacation);
    5) Falling off the ladder and getting injured.
    6) Being out of work for three weeks caused the shop to be 'short handed' (they fired the 'tech' who was watching Lee on the ladder WHILE LEE WAS IN THE ER THAT VERY DAY OF THE INCIDENT!!!!) and lose money.
    The boss put further details in the write ups stating that the legal fees for recovering the bounced check amount, the hitting of the bay door and losing the hubcap cost "in excess of $550" and then on the other write-up for him falling, that the medical expenses "plus the cost of replacing the ladder was again, in excess of $500, not to mention the increase in insurance premiums now" and that if my husband was written up again he would be terminated AND that any additional damages would be taken out of his paycheck. I read the write-ups and it kind of makes my husband look like a bad employee which, as I have said, he is NOT.

    Whew! I know that's long - I'm sorry.

    So my question/s are as follows:

    1) Is NC a 'right to work' state and what exactly does that mean?
    2) Do these sudden write-ups look like a form of retaliation for filing WC?
    3) Is there anything against his continual changing of my husband's rate of pay?
    4) Is he allowed to take money from my husband's paycheck for 'normal' damages? I mean, isn't that what companies have insurance for? Can his boss hold him accountable for every dollar lost or bounced check and make him pay for it? (I know for fact that the boss did not make other employees pay for their damages to customer's property/vehicles that resulted in a loss of money for the company and none of them had to pay anything back; they were not written up or anything.)
    5) What can my husband do about the verbiage in the write-ups? If this were to go to court or something, the way the whole thing is written up makes Lee look like a bad employee. What can we do???

    HELP!!! I know that somehow, somewhere there is some wrongdoing in here by his employer. I just don't know exactly what and which issue is the largest one that we should tackle - possibly with an attorney???

    Any advice you could give would be GREATLY appreciated.


    The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." ~Mahatma Gandhi

  • #2
    I hope some responders have nothing else to do, because your post is WAY too long to get many responses.
    I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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    • #3
      I apologize for the length. I was just thinking that if I provided enough details there wouldn't be anything left unanswered so that I could get an intelligent response.


      The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." ~Mahatma Gandhi

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      • #4
        Writing him up for getting hurt is probably a vioilation of our REDA law. REDA forbids retaliation due to a comp injury. But our Dept of Labor is run by a business owner so you end up filing the REDA claim, getting a finding that the business did nothing illegal, getting a right to sue letter, and having to find a private lawyer to help you. But if they are setting him up to get fired, and that is what it looks like they are doing, then you will need a lawyer to handle the work comp issues and the REDA issue too.

        Making him work 60 hours and not paying overtime for part of it is illegal.

        He is no doubt an "employee at will" who can be fired for no reason. But the fact that he is in the middle of a comp case complicates this, and if he gets fired, he should see a work comp lawyer quickly.

        He works for jerks and hopefully is looking for a new job.

        He may want to consult with a local lawyer on the wage and hour, REDA and work comp issues. This employer will probably try to cheat him in every possible way on every issue, including the work comp case.

        Good luck.
        Bob Bollinger, Attorney
        Board Certified Specialist in NC Workers' Compensation Law
        Charlotte, NC

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