Can Employees Be Fired While Out on Workers’ Compensation?

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Employees with work-related injuries or illnesses often hesitate to file Workers’ Compensation claims because they fear retaliation from their employer.

Injured workers are protected by the law and should not hesitate to file for the benefits they deserve and need. Before filing a Workers’ Compensation claim, know your rights so you can protect yourself until you return to work.
Employers usually cannot fire workers simply because they filed for Workers’ Compensation. However, they can fire workers while there is an open claim if there
is a legitimate reason to do so. A few variables can affect this situation.

Employment Status

“At will” employees are subject to termination at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. “At will” workers can also quit at any time, with or without cause. There are many advantages to working on an “at will” basis. However, “at will” status does leave injured employees vulnerable to termination while collecting Workers’ Compensation benefits. Though it is technically illegal to fire an employee for filing a claim, “at will” employers can use other reasons to terminate an employee on Workers’ Compensation.

Employees working on a contract basis cannot be fired for filing a Workers’ Compensation claim unless their contract includes a loophole. Employee contracts permitting termination for workers unable to work for extended periods of time allow employers to fire workers on long-term Workers’ Compensation.

Returning to Work

Employers are required to hold a job until the victim has either fully recovered or achieved maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI is the maximum an injured worker will recover from a workplace injury without further treatment.

Some workers reaching their MMI are able to return to work but with certain restrictions on their job functions. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to accommodate injured workers’ restrictions so far as they are able to do so. This can mean allowing an employee to sit rather than stand or take more frequent rest breaks.

Retaliation and the Law

Some employers fire workers for utilizing the Workers’ Compensation benefits they deserve. Employees who suspect their termination was an act of retaliation should contact a Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyer immediately.

Workers’ Compensation lawyers advise injured workers to document all contact they have had with their employer regarding an injury. Workers should keep all injury reports, medical records, and witness accounts in case they decide to file a lawsuit. Injured workers have a limited time to pursue a claim, so they should act quickly.

If your accident or injury happened on the job, you are likely entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits during your recovery – or until you reach MMI. Do not be afraid to fight for the financial assistance you need to replace your income and pay for medical expenses. The law protects you from retaliation; do not be afraid to use it.

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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