For many hard-working Americans, being injured on the job is always a difficult and stressful event. If you've suffered an injury that required the use of your employer's workers compensation coverage, then the last thing you want to hear is that you've been let go or laid off. The legality of termination after filing a worker's compensation claim is a complicated aspect of labor law that's worth exploring.
Does Workers' Comp Protect My Employment?
While workers compensation coverage offers added support while you recover from your injury, it offers only a scant few protections for your employment:
- Your employer can't let you go for reasons directly related to your workers compensation claim, but that doesn't guarantee your job will still be there after your leave of absence.
- There are no rules guaranteeing a specific position or pay rate upon your return. However, you can receive differential wage loss benefits in the event your work injury precludes you from earning your pre-injury wages.
Nevertheless, you may be able to find additional protections under federal law:
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) mandates up to 12 work weeks of leave in a 12-month period for a variety of situations, including serious health conditions that prevent you from working.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents your employer from terminating your job simply due to disabilities, whether they're pre-existing disabilities or those caused by an on-the-job injury.
If your employment is bound by a contract or if you are represented by a union, then you may have further protections that cover the aftermath of a workplace injury. Even if you don't have union representation, there's always the possibility of negotiating stipulations with your employer to retain your position while you recover from your injuries.
Is It Retaliation or Just Coincidence?
Most employers don't go out of their way to fire or lay off their employees just because they're receiving workers' comp. Not only would it be highly unethical on their part, but it's also illegal. In fact, most state and federal statutes agreed that it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you just because you've filed or are receiving workers' comp.
Although your employer can't fire you simply because you've exercised your rights under their workers' compensation system, you can still be let go over reasons that are completely unrelated to your workers' comp claim. For instance, if your employer intended on letting you go long before your injury, your employment won't fall under the protection offered under the claim. Likewise, workers' compensation won't protect you if you're fired for displaying poor performance that's totally unrelated to your injuries.
In many cases, being let go after filing a workers' compensation claim is often a coincidence. The legal ramifications of firing someone over a claim are simply too great to risk an unfair termination.
What to Do If You're a Victim of Retaliation
If you genuinely believe that you've been treated unfairly after filing for workers' compensation coverage, then you can exercise your right to bring forward a claim or lawsuit against your employer. The first step is to speak to a personal injury attorney experienced in workers' compensation cases. Your lawyer can help you evaluate your situation and assist you in pursuing a lawsuit against your employer, provided there are substantive grounds for legal action.
The next step involves contacting your state's labor department for more information and further steps for pursuing your claim. Keep in mind that each state has its own different steps for filing and pursuing a claim related to unfair termination over a work injury and subsequent workers' compensation claim.
The most important step to remember is that you are entitled to fair treatment from your employer, especially when it comes to workplace injuries and workers' compensation.