By: James B. Sherman, Esq. & Phoebe A. Taurick, Esq.
On August 27, 2014 the Minnesota Supreme Court held that employees are entitled to jury trials in cases alleging they were retaliated against by their employers for seeking workers' compensation benefits, and where they were seeking only money damages. Although workers' compensation claims themselves are not eligible to be tried to a jury, the court held that workers' compensation retaliation claims are similar to other types of retaliatory discharge claims, and thus are similarly entitled to determination by a jury.
This decision closely follows a recent amendment to the Minnesota Human Rights Act, allowing for jury trials of state law discrimination and retaliation claims (see our previous article on this issue [ Minnesota Human Rights Act Amended to Allow for Jury Trials]). This trend toward providing jury trials for more types of employment cases generally favors plaintiffs, who may be able to evoke sympathy from jury members more easily than from more seasoned, potentially dispassionate judges. More importantly, as plaintiff lawyers find these claims more lucrative, employers can expect more "wrongful discharge" claims by employees alleging they were terminated in an attempt by their employer to avoid worker's compensation claims or liability.