Federal courts sitting in Alabama cannot hear workers’ compensation claims, even where there is diversity of citizenship between the parties. 28 U.S.C. §1445(c).The Alabama Legislature created a mechanism using this State’s civil court system for providing injured workers limited redress for job-related injuries. The same Legislature made provision to protect injured workers from termination in retaliation for pursuing workers’ compensation claims. See, Ala. Code § 25-5-11.1.Logically, the Legislature intended for the State’s courts to decide workers’ compensation issues, including wrongful termination claims.
There is a disturbing trend underway in which Alabama courts have compelled arbitration of wrongful termination claims. See, e.g., Gayfer Montgomery Fair Co. v. Austin, 870 So. 2d 683 (Ala. 2003); Baptist Health Sys. v. Mack, 860 So. 2d 1265 (Ala. 2003); Gold Kist, Inc. v. Baker, 730 So. 2d 614 (Ala. 1999). If workers’ compensation claims cannot be arbitrated, then employers shouldn’t be able to force arbitration of wrongful termination claims which are creatures of the same Workers’ Compensation Act.