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Nothing in the labor code allows the trial court to send matters back to the appeals panel. Further, no mechanism exists in the code for addressing matters remanded from the trial court, and there are no applicable time deadlines that would ensure the appeals panel’s timely determination of those matters. Under these circumstances, remand to the appeals panel in this case is improper. Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission held a contested case hearing on a case involving the 1995 injury of Salvador Montoya. The hearing officer ruled that Montoya suffered a compensable injury and that Texas Mutual Insurance Co. had standing to participate in the hearing; the officer also made two rulings against the company Montoya was working for at the time of the injury. Mutual Insurance and employer appealed to the commission appeals panel. The panel ruled Mutual did not have standing to appeal but otherwise affirmed the hearing officer’s decision. Mutual appealed to a trial court determined Mutual did have standing. The trial court severed the issues dealing with the employer, reversed the appeals panel on the standing issue and remanded that issue back to the appeals panel. The TWCC argues on appeal that a trial court cannot remand to the appeals panel. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. Under Labor Code ��410.203(c) and 410.204(c), an appeals panel may remand an issue back to a hearing officer, but once the appeals panel takes up the case, it has 30 days to render a decision, the court explains. After that, a party can appeal the panel’s decision to an appropriate court, which shall consider the appeals panel decision in a bench trial or inform the jury in a jury trial. “In contrast, nothing in the labor code allows the trial court to send matters back to the appeals panel. Further, no mechanism exists in the code for addressing matters remanded from the trial court, and there are no applicable time deadlines that would ensure the appeals panel’s timely determination of those matters.” OPINION:Bridges, J.; Whittington, Wright and Bridges, JJ. FACTS:Alegria La Tier appeals a summary judgment granted in favor of Compaq Computer Corp. in a suit involving a claim for retaliatory discharge. On appeal, La Tier contends that she presented sufficient evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact with regard to 1. whether a causal link existed between her workers’ compensation claim and her discharge; and 2. whether the reason proffered by Compaq to support her discharge was legitimate. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. The evidence raises a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether there was a causal link between La Tier’s workers’ compensation claim and her termination and whether the reason given by Compaq for terminating La Tier was a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason. With regard to the company’s disciplinary policies, the policies were followed assuming that La Tier’s actions in taking the food constituted dishonesty, theft or the misuse of company property. In analyzing whether La Tier was treated in a discriminatory manner and whether the stated reason for her discharge was false, the question becomes whether the actions La Tier took with regard to taking the food were any different than actions taken by other employees in similar circumstances. After reviewing La Tier’s summary judgment evidence, the court concludes that Edward McKissic and Ron Scheiderer’s knowledge of the claim, Scheiderer’s negative attitude toward La Tier’s injured condition, and the conflicting evidence regarding whether La Tier was treated differently than others in response to taking left over food was sufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact with regard to whether a causal link existed between La Tier’s termination and her filing of a workers’ compensation claim. Because the evidence was sufficient to raise a fact issue regarding the causal link, the burden then shifted to Compaq to establish a legitimate reason for La Tier’s termination. The court holds that the conflicting evidence regarding whether La Tier’s actions in taking the food violated company policy raises a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether the reason proffered by Compaq for her termination was a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason. Compaq cites Miller v. Stolthaven Houston Inc., 2003 WL 1563806 (Tex. App. � Houston [1st Dist.] Mar. 27, 2003, pet. filed) (not designated for publication). In that case, the employee agreed that the action he took � clocking-in in his street clothes � was against company policy. In the instant case, a genuine issue of material fact exists regarding whether Compaq legitimately believed that the actions taken by La Tier violated the company’s policy against dishonesty, theft and misuse of company property. OPINION:Lopez, J., delivered the court’s opinion.

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