Can You Be Fired While On Workers’ Comp?
The question of whether your employer can terminate you if you file a workers’ comp claim is complicated. The answer is both yes (you can be fired while pursuing a claim) and no (filing a workers’ compensation claim on its own is not a legal cause for termination).
Scenarios Where You Can Be Fired on Workers’ Comp
Below are some situations where employers are within their legal right to terminate employment.
If your injury or illness is long-term (lasting more than six months) or permanent, it could hinder your ability to do your job, even with accommodations from your employer.
Employers have to keep the company’s best interests in mind, which may mean replacing you with someone who can perform the required duties if you are not able to.
However, if you are in good standing and have an excellent work record, it’s always possible they will find another job for you within the company that you can perform with your current skills and abilities.
If You Are Unable to Return
Creating an effective workers’ comp return-to-work policy is in employers’ and employees’ best interests. Its intent is to establish policies and procedures that enable workers to return to work safely as soon as possible following an injury or illness.
A return-to-work policy enables employers to retain valued workers and reduce employee turnover. Even if you cannot perform your job fully without modifications or restrictions, you may be able to execute some portion of it and transition back. Thus, you are more productive than you would be at home.
Although your employer cannot fire you for an injury or filing a claim, you can be terminated if you are cleared to work by a doctor and do not return.
Most employees are hired on an “at-will” basis with no time commitment promises or long-term employment assurances. Most employers will not blatantly fire an employee for filing a workers’ comp claim. Instead, they will look for another reason to let you go to avoid accusations of terminating you over a workers’ comp claim.
Conversely, a “contract employee” usually signs a written agreement detailing employment terms, including the length of the contract. Therefore, a contract employee can be tougher to terminate.
While contracted workers have more protections, it doesn’t mean their employers cannot fire them while on workers’ compensation. For example, a contract will often contain a provision stating that if you are absent from the job for a certain period (e.g., three to six months), your employer may dismiss you.
Poor Work Performance
Do you have a documented history of competent job performance and satisfactory reviews prior to your claim? While your employer cannot fire you for your injuries or filing a claim, it is within their legal rights to let you go for poor work performance.
However, they must provide a legitimate reason that directly relates to your job performance for terminating you. If you’re a top performer with no history of negative reviews or warnings, your workers’ compensation claim could be the reason for your termination.
If your company undergoes an organizational change or restructuring while you are on workers’ comp, it could result in employee layoffs. If you were laid off, keep in mind that if others in your department were terminated at the same time, it could be challenging to validate that you lost your job as a direct result of your injury or claim.
Your employer cannot fire you as a form of retaliation, including because you were injured and filed for workers’ compensation benefits. However, employers rarely directly state the reason for termination is due to an employee filing a claim. They are smart enough to know that this is against the law.
Employees may find themselves in the unfortunate position of working in a hostile work environment. It is an uncomfortable situation created by an employer, manager, or co-worker that makes you feel uncomfortable and interferes with your ability to perform your job.
Workplace harassment is a reality in many organizations. Unfortunately, employees who experience harassment from a toxic or difficult boss and report it may become victims of retaliation by supervisors or coworkers. Hostility is a form of workplace harassment, and there are laws to protect employees’ rights.
If you are the victim of discriminatory behavior against gender, race, religion, age, orientation, disability, or nation of origin — categories protected by the Equal Opportunity Commission — you are working in a hostile work environment.
If you feel you are experiencing workplace retaliation due to a workers’ comp claim, you should consider seeking legal advice. Not only can retaliation make your work life miserable, but it can also lead to job loss.
Can You Collect Workers’ Comp After Being Fired?
The workers’ comp process requires employers and insurance companies to continue paying workers’ comp to employees until they have recovered fully or reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). The law states you still have every right to these benefits.
According to the law, it makes no difference whether you are currently employed; if you get hurt on the job, you will receive workers’ compensation provided your doctor agrees that you cannot work. As we discussed previously, once you partially recover, there’s a good chance your doctor will release you to work with restrictions.
Regardless of whether you are currently employed, if you sustained your injury while working, and you will still be covered. You should also receive your medical benefits and lost wages.
What to Do If You Are Fired
If you believe your employer fired you unjustly after filing a workers’ comp claim, you have legal rights that protect you from discrimination by unfair employment practices.
To prove termination retaliation or violation of workers’ comp laws, you’ll likely have to provide a timeline that includes detailed information about the complaint or claim you are making and evidence of the retaliatory action.
Before suing your employer, you may want to obtain legal advice to ensure you have a case. The legal process is extensive, and, more often than not, employees don’t win these cases against their employers.
However, if you feel you have sufficient evidence and a viable reason to sue, you may want to involve an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. The most common reason why people hire a workers’ compensation lawyer is that their claim was denied and usually happens if your employer is questioning your injury or if your claim wasn’t properly filed.
An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can thoroughly assess the paperwork and make any needed corrections to assist in fighting for your compensation.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an attorney in your area!