Forced Resignation After Claiming Workers’ Compensation
Forcing someone who has experienced a work-related injury to quit or resign their job is against the law.
In the eyes of the law, a forced resignation is the same as a termination, and employers cannot terminate employees just because they are injured and claiming Workers’ Compensation benefits.
There are many reasons why an employer might try to force an employee with a work-related injury to resign their position:
To avoid paying Workers’ Compensation benefits
To replace the injured employee, instead of waiting for them to recover
To avoid having to accommodate any work restrictions the employee might have upon returning to work
Additionally, an employer can avoid paying unemployment benefits if an employee resigns from their job voluntarily. When a worker resigns their position, not only can they not collect unemployment benefits, the also cannot file a wrongful termination lawsuit against their former employer.
Thus, there is plenty of incentive for an unscrupulous employer to try to force an employee with a work injury out.
Constructive discharge is the legal term for a forced resignation. To force someone out, the employer may say outright that if the employee does not resign they will be fired, leaving that person no choice. Alternatively, they may seek to create a hostile work environment. In other words, to make that person’s conditions in the workplace so difficult and intolerable that the employee “chooses” to resign, rather than stay.
Both tactics are considered the same as termination. If you were constructively discharged from your job, you have legal options for compensation available to you.
Workers’ Compensation Claims and Retaliation
Workers’ Compensation covers medical care, wage loss benefits, and offers disability payments for workers who are injured on the job. It is a no-fault system that provides a safety net for employees who need time off to recover from work-related injuries.
Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, employers may not retaliate against workers who suffer a work accident and claim Workers’ Compensation benefits for their injuries. This would negate the entire reason for the Workers’ Compensation system.
If you are receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits and feel you have been treated unfairly after your injury, document the situation at your workplace.
Beginning with your injury, write down if you were unable to return to work immediately or if your workload had to be modified. Note how you were treated upon your return to work. If you feel you are the victim of a hostile work environment, document those conditions. Be sure to consult with an experienced Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyer who can explain your legal options for compensation.
Compensation Settlement Agreements
If you negotiated a compensation settlement agreement that included your resignation, this is generally not considered a forced resignation. In many states, including Pennsylvania, such agreements include the employee’s resignation and courts have upheld them to be non-coercive.
If you are offered a compensation settlement agreement, it is imperative to have a qualified Workers’ Compensation lawyer review it before you sign, in order to ensure the terms of the agreement are in your favor.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeffrey S. Gross
As a partner with Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, firm Gross & Kenny, Jeffrey S. Gross has represented injured workers in the Philadelphia area since 1991. He focuses exclusively on Workers’ Compensation litigation, including full and partial disability claims, lump sum settlements, occupational diseases, workplace fatalities, and subrogation matters, and he has a long record of success aggressively pursuing the best interests of his clients.
Copyright Gross & Kenny, LLP
Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws and.how they may affect a case. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.