My son worked for a local company for about a year and a half. During that time he was promoted, received and award for employee of the month, received a merit raise and was up for another promotion. About 3 weeks ago he went to work at 7:00 P.M., (his shift is 7:00 P.M. to 7:00 A.M. with a lunch break from 1:00 A.M to !:30 A.M.), He came home at 1:00 for his lunch break and left at 1:15 to return to work. Upon arriving at the plant he became violently ill. Wittnesses say that he grabbed his chest and fell on the floor, at some point got up and hit his head repeatedly on the coke machine. His supervisor made a comment to others that he was drunk, even though he had just 6 hours without any apparent problems. Instead of calling medical assistance the police were called. When the police arrived my son fought them. The police called medical assistance but the EMT refused to treat him because of his bizarre behavior. My son was instead taken to jail and arrested for resisting arrest. He says that he came to in jail in the morning with absolutely no recollection of anything that had traspired and no idea why he was even there. After his release he when back to the plant and talked to the HR managar who requested that he do a drug, alcohol screen which he did immediately. My son also called our family doctor and was given an appointment the following morning. The doctor did another drug and alcohol screen, blood work and a CAT scan and referred him to a neurologist for further testing. The results of these test showed that there were no drugs or alcohol in his system, and that there were no neurological issues. The blood tests did however indicate dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance which could have been a possible cause for what occurred. The company has been appraised of all these test results, however, he has been terminiated from his job because the HR manager told his he is a safety hazard. There are several coworkers as well as other friends and family who will vouch that his behavior that evening was totally out of character and that he his never in his entire life behaved in this manner. I understand that Texas is an at will state and that a person can be fired for any reason or no reason, however, I was wondering if my son has grounds for a civil suit because no one bothered to call medical assistance for my son when there was so obvoiusly something wrong. She told wittnesses that he was drunk and we understand even started a rumor that the police found drugs in his shoe, none of which was true. She has on various other occasions tried to get him in trouble but up until this point nothing she has done had worked. For example, a few months ago she went to the HR manager and told him that my son came to work on a Sunday night at 7:00 and at 10:00 when out and got in his truck and went to sleep and spent the rest of the night there. When the allegation was investigated it was deamed unfouded because my son wasn't on the schedule to work that night and was at home.
State/Country relating to question: Texas
My son has consulted an attorney who handles employment law and was told that he does not have a discrimination case.
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I'm sorry to hear about your son's issues with this company. Yes, that's correct that Texas is an at-will state. At-will employment means that without a contract, you have no contractual or other right to employment with the company. The company is entitled to fire you for any reason: a good reason, a poor reason, or no reason at all--as long as the company does not fire you for an illegal reason (race, gender, age, religion, etc...).
Now if it can be shown that his happened because of a disability, that would be chronic (no discernable end, rather than a "one off" situation), and that they didn't take reasonable steps to accommodate it, he could have a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But unfortunately it does not appear that this is a "disability" under that law.
As to a lawsuit based upon their inaction for calling for medical personnel...
There are a couple of issues here. The first one is of "duty". Such a case would be based upon negligence. Now in tort law (civil legal wrongs) there are three types of "torts": misfeasance, malfeasance, and nonfeasance. The first is where one acts contrary to how he should, but not intentionally. The second is where one acts contrary to how he should, intentionally. The third is where one does not act when he should have acted.
Most of negligence law is based on "misfeasance" (such as someone running into someone else with a car... there is an affirmative act that they should not have done). Malfeasance is intentional, such as assault and battery, defamation, etc...
The third, nonfeasance, only applies where there is a special relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant, such as a contractual caregiver. If someone in a nursing home is neglected, that would be nonfeasance that could be actionable.
But if you saw someone having a heart attack in the middle of the street, or a blind person about to walk off a cliff, you would have no legal duty to help that person, and you could not be sued for failing to prevent harm. Only a special relationship between the parties would allow such an action in a nonfeasance situation.
Here it's nonfeasance (because any action would be based upon their failure to do something that they should have done, rather than doing something that they should not have done).
And courts have held that there is no special relationship between an employer or other employees and an employee.
But even if that were the case, he would have to prove specific harm due to their inaction (that is, that he suffered permanent brain damage or other damages that he would not have incurred if they had called for medical attention sooner). And he would have to prove that their actions were necessarily unreasonable under the circumstances. It would be a very difficult case to make, even if the nonfeasance situation was not there. But the fact that there was no duty to act in the first place makes such a case impossible.
I know this is probably not what you wanted to hear, but it is the law, especially in Texas, which happens to be very employer friendly. I wish I could give you better news, but I do hope that this clears things up anyway. If you have any other questions, please let me know. If not, and you have not yet, please rate my answer. Please note that I don't get any credit for my answer unless and until you rate it a 3, 4, 5 (good or better). Thank you, and good luck to you!
What if there is something in the company handbook about this and policy or procedure was not followed?
Probably not. That would be under an "implied contract theory", and Texas has yet to accept such a legal theory. Most states do have such a theory (that the policies give the employee certain rights) but Texas is one of 13 states that has not yet adopted that.
The companys main office is in another state. For example, I know that they let a co-worker of my sons go for absences but had to hire him back because they didn't follow company policy.
Employment law relates to the state that the employee is employed in, not where the company may be headquarted. Even if the employee is the only employee in this state, and there are a thousand in another state, the law of the state where the employee works is going to control.
As to the unequal application of the policies, only if this was due to discrimination (race, gender, religion, race, etc...) would he have any chance of success.
But if they could prove a non-discriminatory reason for retaining that other employee (he was a friend, etc...) then there would be no cause of action.
Thank you for your assistance.
Licensed Texas General Practice Attorney
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