Can You Be Fired After a Workplace Injury?
October 15 2019 - If you are injured on the job, you may hesitate to file a workers' compensation claim, even if you are fully entitled to. Why are employees so reluctant to pursue their rights in this way?
In 2014, a survey found that 37% of Americans believe that people who file for workers' compensation are really looking to shirk work. There is a terrible stigma that people are just seeking a payout without earning it.
In fact, the National Safety Council reports that workplace injuries are on the rise and that an injury in the workplace happens every seven seconds.
If you have suffered a workplace injury and are afraid to report it or claim workers' compensation, know your rights. There are protections in place that help you recover, pay your medical bills, and retain your job.
If you are worried you will be fired after getting injured on the job, here are five important facts you should know.
1. Employers May Not Terminate Employment Due to a Workers' Compensation Claim
Employment in the United States is generally "at will," meaning that a boss can fire an employee whenever he or she wants. However, there are certain circumstances under which an employer may not fire someone, such as because of their race or gender.
Employers may not fire an employee simply because they have been injured on the job and have filed a claim. This practice is called illegal retaliation.
It is not a good situation for anyone when there is a workplace injury. The employer may be investigated, and they may have to change conditions in the workplace so it does not happen again. They will have to pay for the benefits due to the injured employee and keep the workplace running without them.
However, do not let your boss dissuade you from filing if you have been hurt on the job. And if your employment is terminated without any other apparent cause, find a workers' compensation attorney.
2. Employees are Entitled to Medical, Rehabilitation and Income Benefits
Most states have specific legislation to protect workers. For example, the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation regulates workplaces with three or more employees. It has an employees' bill of rights which provides complete rules and regulations that govern workers’ compensation.
In Georgia, employees receive ? of their average weekly wages when they cannot work. They can receive benefits for up to 400 weeks in non-catastrophic cases, and if they are unable to perform their original job, they are entitled to benefits that provide the difference in pay.
Employers have a duty to make sure that their working facility and working conditions are safe. This includes heavy machinery and other potentially dangerous mechanics. It also includes ventilation, ergonomics for desk workers, and PTSD.
In some states, workers may claim workers' compensation for emotional pain and suffering caused by sexual harassment.
3. Your Boss Must Make Reasonable Accommodation for Your Injury
Your boss is prevented from terminating you and filling your job with someone else, although they can hire a temp while you are out on disability.
If your injury has caused injuries that inhibit your ability to do your job, your employer is obligated to offer you another job that you can perform while you recover.
This can create some issues when an employer runs a small business and there are not many other jobs to do. It can also be a problem if your injury prevents you from most aspects of the job, such as heavy lifting if you hurt your back or computer or paperwork if your vision has been affected.
An attorney who focuses on workers' comp claims can explain to you the extent of your employer's obligations when it is time to return to work.
4. Employees Must Follow the Rules on Workers' Comp Claims
Claiming workers' comp is no ticket to lying around eating bonbons, despite the stigma that has grown up around it. You actually have to follow the rules carefully in order to make a successful claim.
You are not eligible for workers' comp nor are you protected from getting terminated if your injury was due to your own negligence. If you were drunk on the job and got hurt, or failed to complete the necessary safety training, you may be found to have been responsible for your own injury.
If you are hurt due to the employer's poorly maintained workplace or working conditions, you must report the injury within 30 days. You must also see a doctor, and get the doctor's permission to go back to work.
You may be asked to submit to a drug test after you have been injured. If you refuse, the insurance company may assume you were intoxicated and bar you from recovery.
5. You Can Still Be Fired for Cause, Even if You Have Filed a Workers' Comp Claim
Being out on disability, or working while recovering, does not give you carte blanche to do what you want without fear of reprisal. An employer can still fire you if you fail to do your job, act in a negligent or unsafe manner, or are insubordinate.
The employer may have to prove that he did not fire you because of your workers' comp claim, but for cause. If he has evidence that his actions were otherwise justified- for example, if you were drunk on the job or got intoa fight with someone- he can fire you the way he would have if you had not been injured.
6. Speak to a Workers' Compensation Attorney to Know Yor Rights
Each workers' comp claim depends on the situation: what happened at the time of the accident, what kind of job you do, and what the conditions are like. If you are frightened to make a workers' comp claim because you fear getting fired, or if you have been fired after making a claim, you need to speak to an attorney who is experienced in this area.
Workplace Injury: Protect Yourself
You deserve to be able to work under safe conditions, and if you get hurt through no fault of your own you deserve to keep your job. Make sure you protect yourself both while at work and if you sustain a workplace injury. Speak to an attorney about how to protect your rights, benefits, and job.
Keep checking back here for everything you need to know as an employer, employee, and citizen.
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