Employers generally aren’t happy to learn that their employees are about to file a new workers’ compensation claim. Workers compensation claims cause higher insurance rates for employers, so filing a claim will likely eat into your employer’s bottom line. Because of this, if you’re injured at work you might be hesitant or worried about filing a workers’ compensation claim, fearing that your employer may fire you for doing so.
The good news is that employers are prohibited from discrimination against employees who were injured on the job or for who filed a workers’ compensation claim. This is true in every state in the U.S.
Working At Will
Almost all employees in the United States are at will workers. What this means is that your employer can terminate your employment for any reason or at any time. However, there’s a big caveat: There are a number of reason it’s illegal to fire an employee. If your employer fires you for any reason on the list of protected reasons, you have grounds for certain avenues to restitution and additional compensation.
Firing an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim is on the list of illegal reasons. In the absence of this protection, it’s likely that workers would be too fearful to file claims even when legitimately injured on the job, and as a result many employers would see less reason to prioritize a safe working environment.
It should be noted that filing a workers’ compensation claim doesn’t mean that you can’t be fired at all. If your employer has a valid reason unrelated to the workers’ compensation claim, you may be terminated legally. Legitimate reasons would include documented underperformance, or less personal reasons like eliminating an entire department or division in which you work to alleviate financial burden to the business.
How To Tell if You Were Fired For Filing a Claim
It’s not always easy to know whether your employer is choosing to illegally fire you in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. This is especially true because if you can prove that you were discriminated against by your employer in this manner, that employer stands to lose additional money, as well as a tarnished reputation. So employers can sometimes attempt to dress up a retaliatory firing as related to some other reason.
There are a few things that you can pay attention to in deciding whether you were discriminated against: The first one is timing. If you were fired within either a few days or weeks of having filed the workers’ discrimination claim, it’s quite possible that the firing had to do with filing the claim. As a general rule, the closer your firing was to when you filed the claim, the greater the likelihood that you were discriminated against.
Another big indicator is the reason your employee gives you when you are fired. If the reason you’re fired is left unclear or murky, or if it doesn’t seem to be related either to your job performance or the overall financial health of the business, this is a major red flag. If you have little to no history of internal discipline issues, and have rarely or never had issues with your job performance, it’s increasingly likely that your workers’ compensation claim is the true reason for your termination.
Another thing to pay attention to is simply how your supervisors and managers speak with you about the workers’ compensation claim, or how they treat you in the immediate aftermath. If you receive negative or hostile comments about it, or you notice a marked change in their demeanor towards you, this may be a sign that your subsequent firing was because of the claim.
Your Options if You Were Fired Because of Your Claim
If you can demonstrate that your firing was a retaliation for your workers’ compensation claim, you will usually be able to regain your job, in addition to further compensation. Most states have a workers’ comp system, which is where you’ll bring your retaliation complaint. If you’re successful, you can be reinstated, and to receive additional compensation for any lost wages. Some states also offer a penalty, such as an additional percentage of your workers’ compensation benefits.
It’s also possible to file a lawsuit in court in addition to going through the workers’ comp system. A wrongful termination lawsuit can result in you being compensated for damages related to your illegal termination.
Not only is discrimination against employees filing workers’ compensation claims illegal, but many states have laws that protect injured workers, and your termination might have violated them as well. For instance, certain laws require that employers offer time off for workers with serious disabilities or injuries. If you were fired after being injured on the job, your firing my violate those laws too, meaning that you’re entitled to additional compensation.