Your employer may not retaliate against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim, but you may be fired or laid off for reasons unrelated to the claim, and you may be let go if you are unable to perform your job with reasonable accommodations after you have recovered from your injuries.
Can You Be Fired While You Are out of Work?
If you were hurt on the job and you are unable to work as a result, you have the legal right to file a workers’ compensation claim. The company you work for may not retaliate by firing you or taking away benefits you are entitled to because you exercised your right to seek workers’ compensation benefits.
Most employment arrangements are “at will.” That means that an employer can terminate a worker’s employment for any reason or for no reason at all and that an employee can also terminate the relationship for any reason or for no reason.
If you are an “at will” employee, your employer may fire you for reasons that are unrelated to your workers’ compensation claim while you are collecting benefits. For instance, if you repeatedly showed up late, missed deadlines, or submitted sub-par work before you got hurt at work and you had been disciplined or given warnings in the past, the company may legally fire you after you have filed a workers’ compensation claim.
The employer’s decision may be motivated, at least in part, by the fact that you are unable to work. If the company had documented issues with your performance or attendance before you got hurt, and then it fired you later, it may be difficult to prove that you were a victim of discrimination or retaliation.
If you are a contract employee, your employer may not fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim. If your contract gives the company the right to fire you if you do not perform work for a period of time, it may legally terminate your employment if you are off the job long term.
Can You Be Laid off While Collecting Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
If the company undergoes budget cuts, restructuring, or some other major change, it may legally lay you off. Those types of changes require businesses to make difficult choices. If you get laid off, the company’s decision may be justified and may not be evidence of discrimination or retaliation, especially if other people in your department were also laid off at or around the same time.
Can You Be Fired after You Return to Work?
If you have recovered from your injury or illness or have reached the point of maximum medical improvement and will not recover any further, you may be able to return to work with or without restrictions. If you have work restrictions, your employer may be required to make reasonable accommodations to enable you to perform your job. If you are provided with accommodations but are still unable to meet the company’s standards, you may be fired.
You may also be fired if you cannot perform your job with accommodations. For example, if your job requires you to lift heavy objects repeatedly and your doctor specifically told you that you cannot or should not do so, even with accommodations, you would not be able to meet the requirements of the job and could be fired.
Whatever position you have after you return to work, your employer will expect you to perform your duties in a satisfactory manner with or without reasonable accommodations. If you get fired because you are unable to do so, your firing will be related to your inability to perform your job, not the fact that you filed a workers’ compensation claim. The company may offer you another, less physically demanding position if one is available, but it is not required to do so.
Can You Still Collect Benefits If You Get Fired or Laid off?
If you get fired, you should be able to continue collecting workers’ compensation benefits until you are able to begin working again in another position. If you get laid off, you should receive a severance package that is in line with those given to other employees.
Get Legal Advice on Workers’ Compensation
If you were hurt at work, you should not let the fear of being fired stop you from filing a claim to get the benefits you deserve. Workers’ compensation laws and deadlines vary substantially from one state to another, which can make things confusing for people who are injured and need financial help.
Ben Crump Law, PLLC, has assisted clients across the United States with workers’ compensation matters. You can look up your state’s laws and procedures through the U.S. Department of Labor. A lawyer can help you file a claim with your state’s workers’ compensation official and appeal if your claim is denied.
It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for filing a worker’s compensation claim. We can help you if your company punishes you for filing a claim. Call our office at (800) 603-4224 to speak to a member of our team about what you have gone through and how we may be able to help you.