Employees Terminated for Workers’ Compensation Claims

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Many injured workers decide not to file Workers’ Compensation claims out of fear they will be terminated for doing so. It is illegal for an employer to fire a worker because they filed a Workers’ Compensation claim. However, an employer can fire an injured worker while they are receiving benefits if they can prove there are legitimate reasons for a layoff or termination.

Workers’ Compensation Termination and Employment Status

Most workers are “at will” employees, meaning that employees can be fired for any reason, or for no reason at all, with few exceptions. One of those exceptions is retaliation. Employers cannot fire an employee because they filed a Workers’ Compensation claim for a work-related injury or illness. At will employees who believe
they were fired for filing a Workers’ Compensation claim should consult a Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyer to investigate further.

Contract employees have terms in their contracts outlining specific reasons why an employer may terminate their contract. A common stipulation in many employment contracts allows employers to terminate employees who are unable to work for certain periods of time. Contract employees on long-term Workers’ Compensation claims can often be legally terminated in this circumstance.

Workers Returning to Work After an Injury

Employers are required by law to maintain employment for injured workers until they recover or reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). Maximum medical improvement is a legal term referring to a point where an injured worker’s condition is not likely to improve. Employers are required by law to reasonably accommodate injured workers that can return to work on a restricted basis. Employers unable to provide reasonable accommodations for injured workers who have reached MMI can either provide light duty work or terminate their employment.

Termination During Workers’ Compensation

Employers facing the outright costs or increased insurance prices because of Workers’ Compensation claims may be tempted to terminate injured workers receiving benefits. However, it is illegal for an employer to fire a worker in retaliation for reporting a work injury or pursuing a Workers’ Compensation claim. Workers who are fired while receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits should consider if their termination is an act of retaliation. To prove retaliation, employees need to demonstrate that their termination was directly related to their pursuit of compensation for workplace injuries. An employer firing a worker with an open claim must show extenuating reasons for the termination which are unrelated the Workers’ Compensation case. Every worker injured on the job should be diligent about documenting any evidence related to their workplace accident and related injuries. E-mails, photographs, witness accounts, and medical records are all crucial to a potential lawsuit.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeffrey S. Gross
As a partner with Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, firm Batt & Gross, Jeffrey S. Gross has represented injured workers in the Philadelphia area since 1991. He focuses exclusively on Workers’ Compensation litigation, including subrogation matters, full and partial disability claims, lump sum settlements, occupational diseases and workplace fatalities, and he has a long record of success aggressively pursuing the best interests of his clients.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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