Getting injured on the job is never a fun experience, but it’s incredibly common. In 2017, there were more than 2.8 million workplace injuries documented.
If you’re injured on the job and in the course of your duties, you’re entitled to filing a workers’ comp claim. Workers’ comp can help offset the cost of your medical treatments and give you at least a portion of your income while you’re unable to work.
For many, this helps take the stress out of their recovery. But there’s one lingering question that most people on workers’ comp wonder while they’re healing: can they get fired with an open workers’ compensation claim filed?
The answer isn’t as simple as you might think. Here’s what you need to know.
Workers’ Comp Protects You From Unjust Retaliation
When you file a workers’ comp claim, your employer cannot retaliate against you for filing the claim. This means they can’t take away your benefits or fire you just because you got injured and forced them to use their workers’ compensation insurance.
Unfortunately, proving that your employer fired you as punishment for filing a workers’ compensation claim can be tough.
You’ll need to compile documentation showing that you followed the advice of your doctor, went to appointments, and kept your employer in the loop on your progress. If you’ve done everything right and still got fired, get legal help as soon as possible.
The sooner you start fighting your wrongful termination, the sooner your life can get back to normal.
You Can Get Fired for Reasons Not Related to Your Claim
Massachusetts is an at-will employment state. This means employees are free to quit their jobs with or without reason. But it also means that employers can fire you with or without reason.
Poor Work Performance Counts
Your employer is still permitted to take your work performance prior to your injury into consideration. If you kept getting written warnings, missed shifts regularly, or even took too long of a lunch break every shift, your boss may take issue with the behavior.
They are free to fire you for any reason NOT pertaining to your injury.
Think about your past performance. Did your boss raise concerns with you during reviews? Have you admittedly missed more shifts than you should?
Then your termination likely doesn’t have anything to do with your injuries. And while it’s inconvenient, it’s entirely legal.
While you’re on workers’ compensation, you can also get laid off due to changes in the company itself. Remember, if others with your company get terminated at the same time, your employer likely isn’t basing the decision on the fact that you filed a claim.
Even if your employer used your injuries as a justification for including you in the layoff, this will be difficult to prove.
Remember, companies still have to do what’s right for their business. This may not be fair to the employees, but it’s legal. Showing that the cause of your termination differed from the general layoff may be impossible, especially if others in your department got fired, too.
Employers Can Fire You for Your Injuries…Just Not Immediately
Unfortunately, it is legal for employers to fire you because of the injuries you suffered in the workplace. But they can’t do it just because you got injured and filed a claim. The injury has to impact your ability to do your job in the long-run.
Employers are legally required to offer reasonable accommodation for you to do your job. But if you still can’t perform your duties with those accommodations, your boss can fire you.
It’s not fair to expect a business to keep you on as an employee if you can’t do the job you got hired for. Keep in mind that if you’re in good standing, your boss may try to find another position within the company that better fits your current abilities.
The best thing you can do is keep your employer updated on your recovery. If your doctor suggests any accommodations or modifications to your duties, let your employer know. The sooner they can make those adjustments, the sooner you can get back to work.
If You’re Fired, You Won’t Lose Your Workers’ Comp Claim
Luckily, your workers’ compensation claim and the benefits you receive from it won’t disappear if you do get fired. You’ll still receive the benefits until your doctor tells you that you’re ready to get back to work.
This is true regardless of the reason your employer gives you. And if you’re laid off, you should still receive the same severance package as the other people impacted by the layoff.
What to Do If You’re Worried
Under no circumstance should you avoid filing a workers’ compensation claim out of fear of retaliation. Workers’ compensation exists to help take the financial burden out of your recovery. Use it to your advantage and focus on getting well.
If you’re worried about an employer responding to your workers’ comp claim negatively, speak with a workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible. The sooner you schedule the appointment, the better.
Once you do, your attorney will help you compile the necessary documents and mount a case to help you get the benefits you deserve.
Have You Gotten Fired for a Workers’ Comp Claim?
If you’ve gotten fired after filing a workers’ comp claim, don’t just accept it and move on. Fight for what you deserve!
Schedule a consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation representatives and let us help you present your case. The team at Goldberg Law Group, is proud to help workers across New Bedford and Cape Cod get the justice they deserve.