Can My Employer Fire Me Because of My Workers’ Compensation Claim?

If you have been injured or disabled on the job, whether it is permanently or temporarily, you are likely experiencing a lot of anxiety about your financial situation. Workers who are injured on the job have the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits that usually cover medical expenses and a portion of lost wages. However, this could often turn out to be a complicated and challenging process. If you have filed a workers’ compensation claim, you are also probably wondering if your employer can fire you just because you’ve filed such a claim.

Understanding Your Rights

The fact remains that your employer cannot fire you simply because you filed a workers’ compensation claim. However, your employer can fire you while you still have an open claim. In fact, fear of job loss is one of the main reasons why many injured workers who need monetary support desperately hesitate to file workers’ compensation claims. Our Glendale workers’ compensation attorneys often run into workers who will use their health insurance for doctor visits and use sick days and even vacation if they need time off work to recover from injuries.

But, many workers don’t know that all large healthcare providers, if they determine your injury is work-related, will bill your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance provider or simply refuse to provide you with the services you need. This situation often leaves workers with few options but to file a workers’ compensation claim.

While your employer cannot terminate your employment because you filed a workers’ compensation claim, they can fire you while your claim is pending. However, in order to do this, your employer must be able to show that there were reasons for terminating your employment or for laying you off, and that it wasn’t related to your filing a workers’ compensation claim.

The Nature of Your Employment

California is an “at-will” state, which means employers can terminate their employees at any time without stating a reason. Similarly, employees can quit their jobs at any time. For example, an employer can terminate an employee for a variety of reasons including poor work performance, the need to lay off employees due to financial issues, restructuring the company, which may eliminate certain jobs and positions, etc. However, if you have filed a workers’ compensation claim, this might also give your employer incentive to lay you off or fire you.

When employees work under a contract, which means that when they are not full-time employees, their rights may be different. A contract usually lists the specific reasons for which the contract might be terminated. Often, when a contracted employee is unable to work for a given period, say six months, the contract can be terminated. Such termination is usually legal. But, it would be a good idea to have an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer go over the details of your contract to ensure that your rights are not being violated.

What is definitely illegal is when you are terminated by your employer as retaliation for reporting a dangerous workplace, a workplace injury or for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Many employers already know this is illegal. But if your employer terminates your employment and you suspect that it was because you filed a workers’ compensation claim, it is important that you contact a workers’ compensation lawyer to obtain more information about your legal rights and options.

Accommodations Employers Must Make

If you have been injured on the job and have filed a workers’ compensation claim, your employer is required to make a number of accommodations under the law. First, your employer is required to keep you in the workforce until you completely recover from your injury or reach what is known as maximum medical improvement or MMI. This means that you reach a point where your work-related injury is unlikely to improve with further treatment.

Once you have reached maximum medical improvement or have completely recovered from your injuries, the next step is to talk to your doctor about any permanent work restrictions you may have. You may not have any such limitations if you have completely recovered from your injuries.

But, if you do have any permanent restrictions, you must discuss them with your employer. The law requires your employer to make reasonable efforts to accommodate your needs so you can effectively perform your job. For example, if you need a standing desk at your job because you can’t sit down for a continuous period of time due to your injuries, your employer must make that accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

If your employer is not able to accommodate your work restrictions after you have reached maximum medical improvement, then, your employer is allowed to terminate your employment. This could occur in cases where the worker has suffered catastrophic injuries such as a traumatic brain injury, amputation or paralysis, where he or she is unable to perform the job for which he or she was hired.

Instead of terminating your employment, your employer could offer you alternative work that you can still do. This might mean a different position at a different salary. Often, if you are unable to return to your job because of your workplace injury, you may be able to receive additional workers’ compensation benefits such as occupational retraining or disability benefits.

Protecting Your Rights

If your employer unfairly terminates your employment when you have a pending workers’ compensation claim, or if you believe your employer might fire you, it is crucial that you preserve all evidence relating to your workplace injury and your employment. Print out emails, copy internal memos and other evidence that might support your allegation of wrongful termination or discrimination. It is illegal to discriminate against employees based on their injury or disability.


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What our Clients Say

I have been working for a famous hotel in Los Angeles for more than 2.5 years when an accident happened inside the hotel and I had meniscus tear of my right knee and back pain. After I found out the management didn’t care of my situation I decided to get an attorney, so I researched on the computer and I found ODG Law Group. I met with Leanna and she explained how she can help me. Because she was very nice and honest person I signed a contract and she accepted my case. After few years I decided to settle my case and I was happy about it. I also want to thanks to Tina. She is very nice person and every time I contact her she helped me with good manner. Thank you ODG Law Group for your professional work.

~J.Y. Glendale CA

 

They helped me out when no one else would. They took the time to listen and were compassionate and patient. They have a wonderful and supportive staff. I always felt safe and cared for. They helped me reach a satisfactory conclusion to my case.

~A.C., Burbank, CA


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