Your employer cannot fire you because you filed a workers’ compensation claim, but they can fire you while you are on workers’ compensation if you made mistakes or did not follow company policies before you got hurt or if your injuries prevent you from performing your duties.
Your Employer May Not Retaliate against You for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim
If you are an “at will” employee, that means that both you and your employer have the right to end your relationship with the other at any time for any reason or for no reason at all. Your employer may not, however, fire you because of retaliation or discrimination.
The Company May Fire You for Mistakes, Poor Performance, or a Lengthy Absence
Your employer may fire you for reasons unrelated to your injury or workers’ compensation claim. For example, if, before you got hurt, you had a habit of showing up late, leaving early without permission, taking longer lunch breaks than you were allowed, turning in work with numerous mistakes, and missing deadlines, the employer may fire you for those reasons.
If the company lets you go while you are collecting workers’ compensation, you may still be entitled to benefits until your doctor determines that you have recovered enough to begin working again.
If you have an employment contract with the company, the terms of the contract may allow the employer to fire you while you are on workers’ compensation. For example, the contract may state that the company can terminate your employment if you are unable to work for a period of time.
You May Be Fired If You Cannot Perform Your Job
When you have reached the point of maximum medical improvement, that means that your condition will not improve any further. Although you may be able to return to work, you may have a permanent disability that limits your ability to perform some tasks.
Your doctor may impose restrictions on your activities to prevent further injury or may suggest accommodations to help you do your job without experiencing unnecessary difficulty and pain. For example, your physician may recommend that you be given an ergonomic chair to avoid straining your back while you work at your computer. Your employer may be required by law to provide a reasonable accommodation—if you request it—so that you can perform your job.
Some tasks are physically demanding and cannot be performed in a satisfactory manner, even with a reasonable accommodation. For example, if your job involves operating a machine that requires the use of both hands, and neurological damage has severely restricted your ability to use one hand, it may be impossible for you to perform the job, even if the employer provides an accommodation.
In that type of situation, the company may be legally allowed to fire you. Even though it may seem unfair, the employer has a business to run, and it will not be required to keep you on its payroll if you are unable to do your job.
You May Be Able To Switch to a Different Job
Your employer may offer you a new position or create one so you can stay with the company and have a steady income. It may offer you a position that includes some tasks that you used to do, or the company may give you an entirely different job. It may be in a different department, and you may have duties that are completely unrelated to what you used to do.
The new job may be less physically demanding, but it may pay less than your previous position. Your employer is not required to offer you a different job if you are unable to perform the one you were originally hired to do.
Consider a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you were hurt on the job, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation to cover your medical expenses and some of your lost income. Laws vary from state to state, which often leads to confusion and worry among people who have been injured at work. A lawyer who has experience handling cases in your area can explain the relevant statutes and how they may impact your case. The U.S. Department of Labor lists each state’s workers’ compensation administrations.
If you have not filed a workers’ compensation claim because you are worried that your employer might retaliate and fire you, you should not let that fear stop you from pursuing the benefits you deserve. If your company fires you, and you can prove that it was not because of your job performance or another reason unrelated to your workers’ compensation claim, you may be able to sue successfully for discrimination or retaliation.
The team at Ben Crump Law, PLLC can explain your rights and help you file a claim. Call our office today at (800) 603-4224 to speak with a member of our staff.