Unfortunately, accidents can happen at any time, even at work. That is exactly why states require companies that employ five or more regular full-time workers to carry workers’ compensation insurance. However, there are occasions where a person might suddenly find themselves let go from their job just for simply filing a workers’ compensation claim. If this happens, you have legal options.
YOUR EMPLOYMENT SITUATION
The majority of people in the workplace are “at-will” employees. Generally, this means that the employer can terminate employees for any reason or for no reason at all. By the same token, at-will employees can leave their positions at any time, for any reason or no reason at all.
Although an employer can let a worker go for any reason, doing so when an employee has sustained an on-the-job injury and filed a claim for workers’ comp is not legal. It is also grounds for a lawsuit against the employer for discrimination or retaliatory termination.
HOW DOES FILING WORKERS’ COMPENSATION AFFECT CONTRACTED EMPLOYEES?
While contracted employees (freelancers/ independent contractors) are not technically regular employees of a company, there are still some responsibilities that an employer must abide by. If you are a contracted employee who’s been dismissed for sustaining a work-related injury, it’s best to seek an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. This is a tricky area, and your attorney will know whether or not the employer is liable and if you have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LAWS
Workers’ compensation laws exist to protect both employees and the employer. Employees are meant to be protected by receiving benefits when they are unable to work due to a work-related injury. The employer is protected against personal injury lawsuits. However, if an employer terminates a worker for filing a workers’ compensation claim as retaliation, it is against the law. The employee could have a valid lawsuit against the employer as a result.
Some employers try different tactics rather than outright firing their employees. For example, an employer may force a person to quit because they filed a workers’ compensation claim — this is considered forced resignation. Forced resignation occurs when the employer makes the individual’s life at work so unbearable that the employee feels they have no choice but to resign.
Employers who resort to this tactic are trying to avoid firing the employee as to avoid a wrongful termination lawsuit. Additionally, the employee would be ineligible for unemployment insurance. Forcing an employee to resign does not equate to the employee quitting on their own. This is known as constructive discharge, which is legally the same as a termination.
An employee who experiences any of these issues after filing a workers’ compensation claim should keep good documentation and proof. Keeping all emails and paper correspondence as well as writing notes can only help their case when they speak with an attorney about starting a lawsuit against the employer.