One of the benefits of being employed in the United States is the legal requirement that employers have to protect their employees from injuries. Under workers' compensation laws, an employee who is injured on the job must report that injury, request medical care, and file for workers' compensation. Once these steps are completed, workers' compensation provides the employee with reimbursement for medical treatment, disability payments, and the cost of rehabilitation. With a worker off the job and the cost of carrying workers' compensation insurance to cover their injuries, what prevents employers from firing employees that have filed claims? Even further, can a worker who has hired an attorney be fired?
Will a worker be fired for a compensation claim?
Workers have rights, and one of those rights is that an employer provides a reasonably safe place for them to work. Even in traditionally dangerous occupations, a worker should not be denied compensation for their injuries if they occur on the job. Even if an injury is so terrible that an employee needs significant medical care and rehabilitation, an employer has a responsibility to that worker. However, while an employer is unable to fire a worker for filing a compensation claim, they are able to fire the worker if there is an open claim and it can be shown that there are other reasons besides filing that the employee is being terminated.
For contracted employees, an employer is unable to fire an employee for a claim unless the contract contains a provision mentioning that an employee can be terminated if they are unable to work for a long period of time. For at-will employees, firing can occur due to poor job performance, restructuring, or overall layoffs.
If an employee believes that an employer is terminating them due to a claim, they should:
- Gather medical evidence that shows when maximum medical improvement will occur since employers must keep an employee until that threshold is met
- Show whether reasonable efforts were made to accommodate work restrictions that may apply as a direct result of the workplace accident
- Determining whether workers' compensation benefits apply to the case
Any employee that believes that they are being fired from their place of work due to a workers' compensation claim should immediately consult with their attorney. While it is possible for a worker to get fired over a claim, it is extremely rare to do so. Even with the assistance of an attorney, an employee cannot be terminated unless there is an unrelated cause for them to do so, otherwise, the wrongfully terminated worker could bring an additional claim against them.