Getting fired while you are out on a workers’ compensation claim can be harsh, but is it legal? This is a question commonly posed to a workers compensation lawyer Memphis, TN relies on and is not really a yes or no answer. Your employer cannot terminate you just because you filed a workers’ compensation claim; however, you can be fired while you are in the middle of a workers’ compensation claim for other reasons.
Ofent times, employees are fearful of filing a claim for workers’ compensation thinking that they will be terminated because they filed the claim. What the employee will do instead is just go to the doctor and use their health insurance, or company-offered short-term disability benefits, and accumulated sick days to take care of an illness or injury that was caused at work. This usually doesn’t work because the physician’s office often ask if the injury happened at work. If you answer yes, they will bill the company’s workers’ compensation insurance provider. This leaves you no option but to file a workers’ comp claim.
“At Will” Employees
These days most people are hired as ‘at will’ employees. That means you may leave for any reason and your employer can terminate you for practically any reason, including no reason at all. Deliberate discrimination is an exception to this rule. If your boss had a valid reason to terminate your position, for example, you were not performing the job as required or the company was going through layoffs because of money problems, the company may be able to defend your termination in court.
Employees With Written Contracts
Those employees who have written contracts with their employers play by different rules than the ‘at will’ employee. A contractor’s written agreement may state specific terms and reasons that the employer can terminate you. Even so, the company cannot fire you as a result of you filing a claim for workers’ compensation.
While the workers’ comp claim in in the works, the employer is obligated to keep the employee’s position, until which time that the employee is deemed to be fully recovered or the doctor states that they are at the ‘maximum medical improvement. MMI is the time when the work-related injury will not be made better by further treatment.
If I am Unable to Return to my Job?
If, once you are at your maximum medical improvement and your employer is not able to work with your restrictions, the company can legally terminate your employment. This happens when the type of job requires a certain amount of labor or skill and your restrictions do not allow you to perform the required duties. The company may offer you a different position, but it is not under any obligation to do so. Additional workers’ comp benefits could be available to help with vocational training, or if you are permanently disabled, total or permanent disability benefits.
If you believe you were fired because you filed a workers’ compensation claim, you have to prove that was the sole determinant for your termination. If your employer can show they had any other reason at all to let you go, it will be difficult to prove otherwise and you will not have any recourse.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at Darrell Castle & Associates, PLLC for the insight into filing for workers comp.