Iowa Supreme Court refuses to expand wrongful discharge doctrine

Iowa Employment & Labor Law Dickinson Law Firm Des Moines Iowa

Posted on 04/28/2010 at 09:28 AM by The Newsroom

On April 16, the Iowa Supreme Court issued its opinion in Ballalatak v. All Iowa Agriculture Association, declining to expand Iowa's retaliatory discharge doctrine. Mr. Ballalatak was a supervisor at Hawkeye Downs who injected himself into workers' compensation claims made by other employees.  After the employees expressed to Ballalatak concerns that they would not be paid workers' compensation benefits for work-related injuries, Ballalatak questioned the general manager regarding the issue and was fired. The Court rejected Ballalatak's argument that he was unlawfully terminated for asking the GM whether the company was fulfilling its obligations under Iowa workers' compensation law.  In summary, the Court stated, "Iowa law does not protect an employee who advocates internally for another employee's workers' compensation claim or internally raises concerns about the employer's compliance with workers' compensation statutes as it relates to another injured employee. Iowa law also does not protect an employee who asserts that other employees may contact an attorney regarding their workers' compensation rights."

What should Iowa employers learn from this case? While the Iowa Supreme Court refused to expand Iowa's retaliatory discharge doctrine in the particular context of this case, Iowa employers should be reminded that it is unlawful to discharge employees who support or otherwise participate in or cooperate with coworkers' complaints of unlawful treatment by the employer arising under several other Iowa laws.  Before terminating the employment of any employee who participates in or supports another employee's claim of unlawful treatment, Iowa employers should consult their employment law attorneys.  

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