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Can You Be Fired While On Workers' Compensation?

A lot of injured workers hesitate to file workers' compensation claims because they're afraid of their employers' reactions. They worry that they'll automatically lose their jobs. If you're in that situation, here's what you need to know:

Your Employer Cannot Legally Fire You Over a Work-Related Accident

Unless you have a contract that says otherwise, you are probably an "at-will" employee. This means that you and your employer each have the power to end your working relationship at any time you choose—but your employer is not permitted to fire you in retaliation for anything you've done that is legally protected.

In terms of workers' compensation, that means your employer cannot terminate your employment simply because:

  • You caused the workplace incident that led to your injuries.
  • You reported the accident and your injuries to your employer.
  • You filed a workers' compensation claim and asked for the benefits you are due.
  • You had to miss work because of your injuries.
  • You hire a workers' compensation attorney to represent your interests.

You also cannot be fired because you are put on restrictions or "light duty" when you return to work, or if you refuse to exceed the work limitations set by your workers' comp physician.

Your Employer Can Fire You for Legitimate Business Reasons

The broad protections that you have under workers' compensation do not make you bulletproof when it comes to losing your job. Your employer can let you go from your position if they have a legitimate business need to do so. That could involve things like:

  • Prior to your accident, you were having problems with poor work performance and were already going to be fired.
  • You do something that violates your company's code of conduct or other rules.
  • The company experiences a significant downturn in business and has to lay off or let numerous employees go.
  • The company is undergoing a merger or restructuring and your position becomes redundant.

It's critically important to understand this fact, however. Just because an employer knows that they cannot take adverse actions against you due to your workers' compensation claim, that doesn't mean they won't try.

Employers often try to pressure their workers into not filing a claim after an accident because that will make the employer's insurance costs rise. Too many workplace incidents can also bring on an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which no employer wants.

Contact a local workers' compensation law service to learn more.