A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated a retaliation lawsuit filed by a cook at a Popeyes Louisiana Chicken restaurant in Riverview, Fla., who was mistreated by co-workers.
Thurman Goodman reported in March 2016 to Florida Pop LLC, which owned the franchise, that another chef had been drinking on the job. Later that evening, that cook, a supervisor and two other individuals assaulted Mr. Goodman at a 7-Eleven store across the street from the restaurant and said he had “speak(ed) … to businesses,” according to Goodman v. Florida Pop LLCfiled in the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
Mr. Goodman, who was knocked unconscious during the attack, recognized one of his attackers but did not recognize that the supervisor had participated in the attack until he saw 7-Eleven surveillance footage a year later.
The day after the attack, Mr. Goodman the incident to Florida Pop, who dismissed the attacker as Mr. Goodman recognized. The attackers who worked at Popeyes continued to threaten Mr. Goodman, who spoke with the store manager about seeking workers̵7; compensation for the injuries he sustained during the attack, according to the verdict. The manager told Mr. Goodman that Florida Pop “wasn’t going to do anything, so (he) might as well have a lawyer,” which he did, according to the ruling.
The lawyer helped Mr. Goodman to receive workers’ compensation after he left his job at Popeyes in July 2016 following more threats, including one about 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 compensation for retaliation, alleging that the employer had “intimidated, coerced and constructively dismissed him by allowing his employees … to violently attack him outside 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 least that (one) had significantly harmed him, and it engaged in emotional conduct toward (him) after the attack ”, according to the judgment.
The district court dismissed the lawsuit, concluding that Goodman’s attempt to base his retaliation claim, in part, on a threatening phone call from a supervisor failed because there was no evidence that the erring caller knew about his efforts to solicit workers. said the judge.
“Absent evidence that (the supervisor) was aware of the protected conduct,” the lower court said, “no reasonable jury could find that (he) retaliated against Goodman because of Goodman’s attempts to seek workers’ compensation.”
The appeals court said the lower court’s decision was wrongly based “on grounds not raised by the parties without notice and opportunity to respond,” and it remanded the case for further proceedings.