Situations Where You Can and Can’t Get Fired While on Workers’ Compensation Leave
It’s an unfortunate fact that many injured employees fail to execute their right for workers’ compensation because they’re afraid of what their employers may do. Yes, they’re injured. Yes, they’re missing work due to their injury, but are they seeking compensation?
No. No, they’re not.
Why not? Because they’re afraid that their employers will fire them if they complain or request time off work to recover.
Employees have rights that their employers must uphold. If they fail to recognize these rights, employees have the option to pursue legal claims against them. But before we go into filing a claim, let’s clear up a couple of things first: Specifically, when your boss can and can’t fire you when a work injury or workers’ compensation is involved.
Termination Rules for Workers’ Comp
Every state has laws that determine when, how, and why an employer can discharge an employee. Similar termination rules are included within workers’ compensation laws.
When an employer can’t terminate you
Workers’ comp laws prohibit employers from retaliating, “taking revenge,” or prejudicial action against an employee for executing his right to file for workers’ compensation. In other words, your boss can’t fire you because you have:
- Made a good-faith claim for workers’ compensation.
- Hired a lawyer to represent you for a workers’ comp claim.
- Instituted or caused to be instituted a proceeding regarding a workers’ compensation claim.
- Testified or are about to testify in an administrative proceeding regarding a claim for workers’ compensation.
In fact, many bosses are leery to bring up termination during a workers’ compensation absence, as they know that their decision will likely cause a lawsuit against them.
When an employer can terminate you
Your employer can’t hold you accountable for taking time to recover from an injury—especially when that injury occurred on his watch. However, he isn’t obligated to treat you any differently than he would another employee either.
If your boss has a legitimate reason for letting you go, he is permitted to do so, even while you’re collecting workers’ compensation. However, he must be able to produce valid reasons to justify the termination, even though your filing may have played a part in his ultimate decision. Justifiable reasons for termination while you’re collecting workers’ compensation benefits may include:
- Your employer discovered that you tested positive for alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident. If you were found to have been violating work policies and those violations played a part in your receiving workers’ compensation, your employer may have the legal right to fire you. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re disqualified from receiving workers’ compensation benefits. In a situation like this, you definitely will want to obtain legal counsel.
- You violated a work policy during the period where you were released back to work on light duty. If you continuously miss shifts, come in late, refuse to do appointed tasks, or fail to do your assigned job, your employer may have the right to let you go.
However, if his sole reason for firing you is that he doesn’t like paying your benefits or that he is insulted you took advantage of your employee rights, he is not justified in firing you. If he does, you can sue him for damages. To determine whether you have a case for wrongful termination, you’ll need to discuss the details of your case with an attorney who has experience handling work injury claims.
If you feel that you were unjustly terminated as a result of bias or retribution for receiving workers compensation benefits, or are afraid to pursue a workers’ compensation claim for fear of being fired, call 713-921-4171 now. Attorney Steve Lee has spent his career fighting to protect the rights of victims who’ve been in similar workers’ compensation predicaments. Give him the chance to use what he’s learned to help secure your claim. Contact us today to schedule your FREE consultation.