Most people work because they need to pay their bills – put food on the table, keep a roof over their family’s head, save for college and more. If you’re lucky, you like what you get paid to do. Not everyone, of course, is so fortunate. Still, you go to work each day to collect your paycheck.
When you get hurt at work, however, everything can change in an instant. In addition to being in terrible pain and, perhaps, having to face medical treatments and surgeries and rehabilitation, you may be out of work for a while. You are entitled to file for Workers’ Compensation benefits so your medical treatment is covered and you can receive replacement pay for lost wages.
Interestingly enough, many workers hurt on the job decide not to file for Workers’ Compensation because they fear they will get fired. Instead, they take vacation time, sick time, short-term disability or unpaid leave, if allowed, and pay out of pocket for medical treatment (or use health insurance). By failing to file a Workers’ Comp claim, they also give up their right to receive a cash award for long-term injuries in the future.
Your employer is not permitted to fire you because you filed for Workers’ Compensation. However, it can fire you while you are out on Workers’ Comp, if it can prove that you are being let go because of something unrelated to your accident. Even if you are employed “at will,” meaning you can be terminated for any reason – or even no reason – you can’t be fired due to filing a Workers’ Comp claim.
On the other hand, is your employer doing a company wide lay off? Did they find out about wrongdoing involving you that took place before you got hurt? If the employer can show proof that you are being let go or fired for reasons other than your accident/Workers’ Comp claim, you may not be able to bring a Wrongful Termination lawsuit.
However, if your employer does attempt to fire you when you file for Workers’ Comp (or even when you discuss your intention to file), you may be able to bring a lawsuit against the employer for discrimination or “retaliatory termination.” This means they fired you just because you got hurt and decided to exercise your legal right to Workers’ Comp benefits.
The first thing to do if you’ve been fired or your boss threatens to terminate you after a workplace accident, is to contact an experienced Workers’ Comp lawyer who will protect your legal rights. Additionally, keep any and all documentation that can substantiate your claim that you were fired because you got hurt. Make sure you have copies of your recent performance reviews that reflect positive performance. Print out any emails that show correspondence between you and your employer about your work performance, the accident, your injuries, your intention to file a Workers’ Comp claim, etc.
If you believe you were terminated because you got injured in an on-the-job accident and decided to file a Workers’ Comp claim, contact the skilled Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Team Law.