Workplace injuries can happen at any time and it is a fact that some occupations are more injury prone than others. Most employees are able to claim compensation from their employer’s insurance provider as long as they have had a genuine workplace injury or illness. A successful claim should help to pay for medical treatment, a percentage of lost earnings as well as retraining if the injured employee is no longer able to do the same job as before.
One of the fears that some employees have is that their employer may not be sympathetic to a claim for compensation or even taking time off to recover. If the employee is an at-will employee and does not have a written employment contract the possibility of this happening is higher. Talk to an experienced workers’ comp. attorney to find out what your legal rights are if you are concerned that you could be fired while collecting a workers’ comp. claim.
The Connection Between Workers’ Comp. and Being Fired
Your employer cannot legally fire you for either making a workers’ compensation claim or collecting compensation for a workplace injury if this has been accepted by the employer’s insurer. It would be an unusual employer that makes the mistake of stating that an employee is being fired because of a workers’ compensation claim.
However, even if this is the legal situation, an employer may still fire an employee who is either claiming compensation or collecting payment for it as long as they state another reason, e.g. reducing workforce for economic reasons. If you are an at-will employee there is little you can do about this unless you suspect that the reason given was not valid. If proof can be obtained that you were fired because you were filing a claim, then there is a possibility that you could sue your employer for discrimination.
There may be other reasons why an employer may still fire you if you had successfully claimed workers’ comp. One reason is that a six month maximum absence from work was written into your employment contract (or less) and you were forced to stay away from work because of the severity of the injury. Another is that you were permanently disabled in some way and no longer able to do the same job as you did previously. Theoretically, the employer is legally bound to provide another job if there is a suitable one available, but otherwise you may lose your job, although you may then obtain a further workers’ comp. payment to help pay for retraining or even a life without work.
Your Rights if Fired
You only have a right to sue your employer if the employer fired you because of your claim for the reasons given above. If the employer openly stated that that was the reason, then you have proof that you were fired legally. You could then get help from an attorney, preferably one with workers’ comp. or personal injury experience to file a lawsuit against the employer.
The legal status becomes more complicated and more difficult if you have been fired for some other reason. This is the more likely possibility. You should contact an attorney if this happens and you still suspect that it was the claim or the fact that you reported a workplace accident and injury. You may be able to sue your employer for discrimination if proof can be found.
Importance of an Attorney
Some workers are justifiably worried that admitting that they had a workplace injury and filing for workers’ compensation could lose them their job. Some workers even use their own insurance to cover medical treatment rather than seek workers’ comp. It is better to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney for advice and legal help either to avoid being fired yet still filing for compensation or deciding about whether to sue the employer if fired illegally.