Can I Be Terminated While on Workers’ Compensation?

By Justin M. Beall

Although you could lose your job while you’re on workers’ comp leave, your employer cannot fire you solely because you filed a workers’ compensation benefits claim. This is called retaliation, and it’s illegal.

It’s not unusual to have concerns about losing a job after filing a workers’ comp claim. An attorney on the Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis, LLP, team can help protect your rights if you’re unlawfully terminated while on workers’ compensation.

How Can I Be Terminated While on Workers’ Compensation Without My Employer Breaking Any Laws?

Can I be terminated while on workers' compensation?

In Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., you could be legally fired while you’re on workers’ comp leave if your employer can show that your termination was not related to filing your benefits claim. Your employer may counter allegations of retaliation by providing a different reason for your termination. The reason provided could reflect performance issues demonstrated prior to your filing a workers’ comp claim.

There are several performance issues that may justify terminating an employee on workers’ comp, such as:

  • Substandard work quality
  • Frequent absenteeism
  • Insubordination
  • Frequently arriving at work late
  • Not meeting assignment deadlines

If you believe that your employer’s claim of poor work performance is really an excuse to fire you because you filed for workers’ comp, you may require an attorney’s assistance to successfully challenge the unlawful termination.

Does Workers’ Compensation Affect Future Employment?

After your doctor determines you’ve reached your maximum level of medical improvement, you may be able to return to work. Based on the severity of your injury, however, you could be returning to work with a disability or physical limitations.

Depending on the physical abilities required to perform your employment tasks, you may find yourself assigned to another position that allows you to work within the limitations specified by your doctor. Your new position may, however, pay less than the one you had before your injury occurred.

In some cases, an employer may arrange for special accommodations that enable you to overcome your new physical limitations. You may be able to work at your previous position.

If the post-injury accommodations you will need to return to work are unreasonable, such as lowering work standards or removing essential job functions, your employer might not have to provide them for you. Under these circumstances and depending on when they become apparent, your employer terminate you while on workers’ compensation.

As long as you are physically able to perform the required job tasks, you will most likely find that a previous workers’ comp claim will not harm your chances of finding another job. It is illegal to refuse employment based on a previous work-related injury or workers’ comp claim. It is not unlawful, however, if your new employer attempts to verify that you can safely and effectively perform your new job tasks.

Can I still work while receiving workers’ comp?

If your doctor determines that you’re capable of doing light-duty or part-time work, you may pursue the option to do so. If you work full-time, however, your workers’ comp benefits could end. Overall, you’ll need to follow your doctor’s advice if you intend to work while receiving benefits. Your employer may also need to review your doctor’s recommendations to make sure your new duties do not hamper your recovery.

You will most likely need to review your options regarding light-duty or part-time work with your local workers’ comp bureau or your employer’s insurance carrier. You need to report your modified work earnings, which can reduce the lost-wages benefits you receive.

How Could Getting Fired While on Workers’ Comp Leave Affect Me?

Getting fired while on workers' compensation does not always mean you lose your benefits.

If you’re concerned about how getting terminated while on workers’ compensation could affect you, you needn’t worry about losing your benefits unless your employer can prove your firing was for disciplinary reasons. Your benefits could otherwise continue until your doctor determines you’re capable of returning to work.

If your employer terminates you after you suffer a work-related injury and claims it was for disciplinary reasons, the insurance company providing workers’ comp benefits could decide to deny or stop your benefits. You may, however, be able to prove that your employer’s claim of disciplinary action is unfounded.

Why would an employer want to prevent an employee from receiving workers’ comp benefits?

Employers may have concerns that employees filing workers’ comp claims could cause a significant increase in their insurance premiums. Some workers’ comp claims could involve severe injuries and lengthy recovery times.

In some cases, employers may hope to preserve their company’s positive image as a “safe” place to work and where on-the-job injuries are rare. Although employers may face fines and other penalties for attempting to discourage their employees from filing workers’ comp claims, some may still attempt to do so.

How can an attorney help me if I’m injured at work and I need to file a worker’s comp claim?

In addition to helping to protect your rights if you’re unlawfully terminated while on workers’ compensation, an experienced attorney can assist in sorting out all of the details needed for your filing. It is also important to file the required paperwork before the deadline passes.

A submission error or a missed filing deadline could harm your ability to receive the benefits you deserve. Your attorney can review everything before you submit your filing.

A workers’ comp attorney can also help if your benefits claim is denied. In some cases, employers or their insurance carriers will assume an employee doesn’t know their rights and attempt to deny a legitimate injury claim. Even when your claim receives approval, you’ll know that your attorney will oversee the process and help make sure your benefits amount is fair.

What Should I Do If My Employer Terminates Me While on Workers’ Compensation?

You may have options if you think your employer wrongfully terminated while on workers' comp.

Our law firm knows how to fight back if your employer treated you unfairly. The team at Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis, LLP can review your circumstances and determine if you’ve been unlawfully terminated.

If you’ve been terminated while on workers’ compensation and your employer has not provided what you feel is a valid reason for your dismissal, we’ll help you take the steps needed to protect your rights. Contact us now to arrange for a no-fee confidential review of your case.

About the Author
Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C., and West Virginia injury attorney Justin M. Beall represents clients in a wide range of personal injury matters including catastrophic injury, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction accidents, medical malpractice and workers’ compensation claims.