Workers’ compensation laws are created and governed by states. In Alabama, the Workers’ Compensation Act includes a specific statute prohibiting retaliation. Alabama Code section 25-5-11.1 states, “[n]o employee shall be terminated by an employer solely because the employee has instituted or maintained any action against the employer to recover workers’ compensation benefits.” The Alabama Supreme Court analyzed this statute’s applicability to municipalities in light of Alabama’s general statute that states municipalities are immune from liability for intentional torts, and liable only for the neglect, carelessness, or unskillfulness of their agents, officers, and employees. Ala. Code. § 11-47-190. Thus, the underlying question is how should two opposing statutes be interpreted?
Statutes should be construed together, whenever possible, so as to harmonize the provisions as far as practicable. However, “[i]n the event of a conflict between two statutes, a specific statute relating to a specific subject is regarded as an exception to, and will prevail over, a general statute relating to a broad subject.” In analyzing Alabama’s workers’ compensation anti-retaliation statute in light of Ala. Code. § 11-47-190, the Alabama Supreme Court found that Ala. Code. § 25-5-11.1 is a specific statute and thus, an exception to the general statute against liability. The Court noted that Ala. Code. § 25-5-11.1 set out a specific cause of action under the Workers’ Compensation Act for wrongful termination. The Court noted, “in enacting [this] provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act, the legislature expanded the liabilities of municipalities to include liability for wrongfully terminating an employee in retaliation for the filing of a workers’ compensation claim. Therefore, Ala. Code. § 25-5-11.1 prevails over Ala. Code. § 11-47-190. In other words, municipalities are not immune from workers’ compensation retaliation in the state of Alabama.
If you feel your employment rights have been violated, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment, please contact the experienced Birmingham employment law attorneys at Michel | King. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 319-9724. We are here to serve you.