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A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated a retaliation lawsuit filed by a cook at a Popeyes Louisiana Chicken restaurant in Riverview, Florida, who was beaten by coworkers.
Thurman Goodman reported in March 2016 to Florida Pop LLC, which owned the franchise, that another cook had been drinking on the job. Later that night that cook, a shift supervisor, and two other individuals assaulted Mr. Goodman at a 7-Eleven store across the street from the restaurant, saying he had “snitch(ed) … to corporate,” according to Goodman v. Florida Pop LLC, filed in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
Mr. Goodman, who lost consciousness during the attack, recognized one of his attackers but did not recognize that the shift supervisor had participated in the attack until he viewed 7-Eleven surveillance footage a year later.
The day after the attack, Mr. Goodman reported the incident to Florida Pop, which fired the attacker Mr. Goodman recognized. The attackers who worked at Popeyes continued to threaten Mr. Goodman, who spoke with the store manager about seeking workers compensation for the injuries he had suffered during the attack, according to the ruling. The manager told Mr. Goodman that Florida Pop “wasn't going to do anything, so (he) might as well retain an attorney,” which he did, according to the ruling.
The attorney helped Mr. Goodman obtain workers compensation after he left his job at Popeyes in July 2016 following more threats, including one of gun violence, claiming he did “not feel safe returning to work,” according to the ruling.
Mr. Goodman sued Florida Pop in February 2020, alleging workers comp retaliation, stating that the employer had “intimidated, coerced, and constructively discharged him by permitting its employees … to violently attack him outside of their workplace.”
The suit also stated that Florida Pop “then acted recklessly and maliciously by exposing (him) to (the former employees) after it knew, at minimum, that (one) had significantly harmed him, and it exhibited callous behavior toward (him) after the attack,” according to the ruling.
The district court dismissed the lawsuit, concluding that Mr. Goodman’s attempt to premise his retaliation claim, in part, on a threatening phone call from a shift supervisor failed because there was no evidence that the offending caller knew of his efforts to seek workers comp, the ruling said.
“Without evidence that (the supervisor) was aware of the protected conduct,” the lower court stated, "no reasonable jury could find that (he) retaliated against Goodman because of Goodman's attempts to seek workers compensation.”
The appellate court said the lower court’s decision was erroneously based “on grounds not raised by the parties without affording notice and an opportunity to respond,” and it remanded the case for further proceedings.