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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Altagracia Hernandez sued her former employer, Haggar Clothing Co., alleging that she was fired in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim after she was injured on the job. The jury found in favor of Hernandez on her retaliation claim, found that Haggar acted with actual malice, and awarded Hernandez compensatory and exemplary damages. Hernandez worked as a seamstress at Haggar’s Weslaco plant. On Feb. 19, 1991, she was injured at work when another employee carrying a table accidentally hit her on the chin with the table, knocking her down and causing neck, knee, and back pain as well as brief loss of consciousness. According to Haggar’s records, Hernandez officially went on workers’ compensation leave on Feb. 25, 1991. On Feb. 26, 1992, Haggar’s Weslaco plant manager, Angel Ritchey, sent Hernandez a letter by registered mail informing her that her employment with Haggar was being terminated because she had not returned to work after a year. Hernandez sued Haggar in 1994, alleging Haggar had unlawfully terminated her for filing a workers’ compensation claim in good faith. The jury found for Hernandez on her retaliatory discharge claim and found that the harm to Hernandez resulted from actual malice, awarding Hernandez $210,000 in compensatory damages and $1.4 million in exemplary damages. The trial court rendered judgment on the verdict, and Haggar appealed. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the evidence was legally and factually sufficient to support the jury’s findings of retaliation, actual malice, and actual and punitive damages. HOLDING:Reversed and rendered. Hernandez does not argue that Haggar’s one-year leave-of-absence policy was unreasonable; rather, she contends that the policy was not uniformly enforced. Hernandez presented evidence that another Haggar employee, Consuelo Gonzalez, went on leave in September 1994 due to a workplace injury. Despite the continued existence of the leave-of-absence policy, however, Gonzalez was not discharged from Haggar until May 1997 when the company closed its Weslaco plant. Even viewed in the light most favorable to the jury’s finding, the court states, the evidence shows that three years after Hernandez was terminated, Haggar failed to officially discharge one employee who had been on leave for over a year. This simply does not amount to more than a scintilla of evidence that the policy was not uniformly enforced or that Haggar’s explanation for firing Hernandez was false. Stated another way, while an employer’s discriminatory application of an absence-control policy may provide circumstantial evidence of retaliatory conduct, the Gonzalez example does not amount to such circumstantial evidence in this case. The court holds that there is no evidence to support the jury’s finding that Haggar retaliated against Hernandez for filing a workers’ compensation claim. OPINION:Per curiam. Johnson, J., did not participate in the decision.

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