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Employment Law No. 06-02-00035-CV, 4/30/2003. Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS: While “pulling flash” at Lone Star Steel Co., Bridget Hatten noticed a pain in her right hand. She reported her injury to Lone Star’s medical department. Lone Star placed Hatten into the alternative work program. Later, she was placed on restrictive leave. Hatten claimed in a suit that Lone Star discriminated against her because she filed a workers’ compensation claim. Specifically, Hatten alleged that being placed on restrictive leave without pay constituted a violation of Texas Labor Code �451.001. After a jury trial, the trial court rendered judgment in favor of Hatten based on a finding that Lone Star had violated the Texas Labor Code, awarding Hatten $50,000 in compensatory damages and $2,000 in lost wages. HOLDING: Reversed and rendered. Hatten contends that being placed on restrictive leave without pay constituted a discriminatory action on the part of Lone Star. Therefore, she had the burden of proving a causal connection between that act and filing a worker’s compensation claim. Mere knowledge of Hatten’s claim does not establish a causal link between the alleged discriminatory behavior and the filing of the claim but is only one factor to be considered in light of the record as a whole. Garcia v. Allen, 28 S.W.3d 587 (Tex. App. – Corpus Christi 2000, pet. denied). Hatten contends Lone Star expressed a negative attitude toward her injury by 1. having an economic incentive to dispute her claim; 2. allowing an insurance adjuster to question Hatten at Lone Star’s medical department; and 3. requiring her to perform duties that were against her medical restrictions. Hatten relies on Whole Foods Market Southwest, L.P. v. Tijerina, 979 S.W.2d 768 (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist.] 1998, pet. denied). Tijerina, however, stands for the proposition that economic incentive alone will not support a finding for punitive damages if a violation of �451.001 has occurred, but economic incentive combined with badgering of the employee and testimony that money was a factor in terminating the employee, all of which were present in that case, could support a judgment that the employer acted with malice in violating the Texas Labor Code. While Lone Star had economic incentive to dispute Hatten’s claim, that fact alone does not constitute an expression of a negative attitude toward her injury. There is no evidence in Hatten’s being interviewed by an insurance adjuster that demonstrates Lone Star expressed a negative attitude toward Hatten’s injury or that Lone Star discriminated against her for filing her claim. Hatten testified she was required to pull flash even though her doctor restricted her from performing such a duty. Therefore, there was some evidence allowing the fact-finder to conclude that a negative attitude toward Hatten’s injury existed. There was no evidence, however, in that event suggesting a causal link with Hatten’s filing of a claim. Hatten failed to present any evidence Lone Star acted in violation of company policy by placing her on restrictive leave. Because there is no evidence Hawkins was a similarly situated employee, there is no evidence of discriminatory treatment in comparison to similarly situated employees. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Amos,79 S.W.3d 178 (Tex. App. – Texarkana 2002, no pet.). Hatten has failed to establish a causal link between being placed on restrictive leave and filing a workers’ compensation claim. While requiring an employee to perform tasks that are in contradiction with his or her medical restrictions is some evidence a negative attitude toward the employee’s injury existed, it is no evidence of any expression of such a negative attitude when considered in light of the other factors, and it is insufficient to establish a causal link between the alleged discriminatory behavior and Hatten’s filing of a workers’ compensation claim. Because a causal link has not been established between Lone Star’s allegedly discriminatory behavior and Hatten’s filing of a workers’ compensation claim, there is no evidence to support the trial court’s judgment. OPINION: Morriss, C.J.; Morriss, C.J., Ross and Carter, JJ.

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