Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Finally, a Victory for Employers – Prospective Employees Do Not Have a Right to Sue for Retaliatory Failure to Hire

By Keith C. Dennen

In Yardley v. Hospital Housekeeping Systems, LLC, the Tennessee Supreme Court decided that job applicants cannot sue a prospective employer for refusing to hire the applicant solely because the applicant filed a worker’s compensation claim against a previous employer.

What makes Yardley exciting for employers is that the Court specifically states that in Tennessee, “there is no statutory or common law cause of action for retaliatory failure to hire.” So, employers can find some comfort in that statement.

Why is Yardley unusual? The employee was a housekeeping aide for a hospital. She injured herself in the course of her employment and received worker’s compensation benefits.

While she was on “light duty,” the hospital entered into a contract to outsource its housekeeping to a third party. The company agreed to interview the current housekeeping employees; however, the company was not obligated to hire those employees. The company did not hire the employee because of her prior worker’s compensation claim because “bringing her on board would seem to be a Workers’ Comp. claim waiting to happen.” Thus, there was no question that the refusal to hire this person was directly the result of the filing of her prior Worker’s Compensation Claim.

The Court acknowledged its prior decisions that employees could not be fired for filing a Worker’s Compensation claim; however, the Court stated that protection did not apply to “prospective” employees stating “employers should have freedom to make their own business judgments without interference with the courts.”

For employers, this decision is a major victory. After years of decisions granting employees the right to sue their employers for a variety of alleged wrongs, the Tennessee Supreme Court took a stand in favor of the “at will” employer.

Yardley v. Hospital Housekeeping Systems, LLC, No. M2014-01723-SC-R23-CV (Tenn. Aug. 21, 2015).