Have you been injured on the job? If so, you’re not alone. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.8 million non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported in 2018.
Unfortunately, it’s likely that many more occurred but weren’t reported. Many people don’t inform their employers of workplace injuries or file for worker’s compensation benefits because they’re afraid of losing their jobs.
This begs the question: Can you be terminated while on workers’ comp? Stick with us as we explore the answer.
Can You Be Terminated While on Workers’ Comp?
Yes and no.
Legally, your employer cannot terminate your employment because of a workers’ comp claim. This doesn’t mean they cannot terminate your employment during your workers’ comp claim.
Most employees work under “at-will” employment. This means that the employee can resign from their job at any time, for any reason (or no reason). It also means that employers can terminate their employees for any (legal) reason or no reason at all.
Although your employer can’t fire you for filing a workers’ comp claim, you can be fired or laid off for a variety of other reasons, including:
- Poor work performance
- Company financial problems
- Company restructuring
- Any other legal reason
In summary, your employer cannot legally fire you in retaliation for filing a workers’ comp claim, but they are not obligated to hold your position for you either.
What Happens If I Am Terminated Before I Have Recovered?
The workers’ comp program was designed to act as a safety net in the event you are seriously injured at work. But what happens if you’re terminated while on workers’ comp? Will your safety net disappear?
Luckily, the workers’ comp program is required to continue paying you benefits until you have recovered or reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). (MMI is the point at which further recovery cannot be expected.) However, this does not apply if you were terminated for misconduct.
Accommodating Work Restrictions
In some cases, your doctor might clear you to return to work but provide you with certain restrictions. What happens if your employer cannot accommodate those restrictions?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, your employer is required to make reasonable efforts to comply with your new physical needs. This may involve making accommodations within your current position or even offering you a light-duty position with less vigorous physical requirements.
However, there may be occasions when your employer is unable to provide you with work within your new physical restrictions. In this case, you would be excused from work and collect 80% of 80% of your average weekly wage.
Again, even if your authorized physician expects you to make a full and complete recovery, your employer is still legally allowed to replace you while you are recovering from a workplace injury. They might think that your recovery is “taking too long” and aren’t willing to be understaffed until you return. Or they might discover that they were overstaffed before and can manage just fine without you.
Because Florida is an “at-will” employment state, it can be difficult to prove that your termination was in retaliation for you filing a workers’ comp claim and not another, more innocent, reason.
If you have reason to suspect that you were terminated while on workers’ comp simply because you were on workers’ comp, it’s important to gather as much evidence as possible to support your claim. Document all communication between you and your employer regarding your workers’ comp claim so an attorney can review it and advise you on next steps.
Let Us Help You with Your Workers’ Comp Claim
While it is legally possible to be terminated while on workers’ comp, this doesn’t mean you have no recourse.
If you’ve filed for worker’s compensation and were subsequently terminated, make sure to keep detailed records, copies of email conversations, and anything else that could help support your case. Then, reach out to an attorney to find out if your termination was legal.
At BDT Law Firm, our focus is on you, the injured party. After a workplace injury, you need representation and guidance far more than your employer (and certainly their insurance company)! If you feel that you were terminated (or are about to be terminated) in retaliation for a workers’ comp claim, this is the perfect opportunity to hire a workmans’ comp attorney.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We’re happy to review your case, answer your questions, and help you decide on the next steps.