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Can I Be Fired While Out on Workers' Compensation?

One large concern that many workers have is that they may be fired while unable to work due to an injury. So, can your employer fire you while you’re out of work on workers compensation?

Getting injured at work can be nerve-wracking in many different ways, especially if you are unable to work due to the injury. You must worry about filing a workers compensation claim, receiving enough compensation for your injuries, and a possible cut in your pay even with wage replacement.

One large concern that many workers have is that they may be fired while unable to work due to an injury. So, can your employer fire you while you’re out of work on workers compensation?

In general, the short answer is no.

The long answer to this question depends to certain laws and regulations on both state and federal levels that prevent employers from firing employees simply because they are unable to work due to a work-related injury.

In fact, employers who fire an employee simply because they are unable to work after a work-related injury may be sued by said employee for compensation. This kind of claim or lawsuit is generally referred to as a retaliatory discharge claim, meaning a claim against the employer for firing an employee in retaliation for a workplace injury. For this claim to be successful, however, the employee must be able to prove that they were fired due to the workplace injury and no other reason.

There are reasons that could lead to you being fired while out on workers compensation that do not relate to the injury itself or your inability to work. Reasons a retaliatory discharge claim may be denied include:

  • Positive drug tests directly after the injury (which can also see workers compensation benefits denied)

  • You are fired while completely out of work and receiving workers compensation benefits

  • Misconduct, absenteeism, insubordination, tardiness

  • Fighting

Many of these incidents tie into the possibility of having workers compensation claims denied, as well. If an employee starts a fight at work with another employee or customer, for example, injuries that arise due to this fight are unlikely to be covered under workers compensation. These types of accidents will not be covered legally, either.

Keep in mind that workers compensation itself does not offer job security or protection. Simply because you are on workers compensation does not mean that you are protected from termination. There are simply some instances in which your employer should not fire you, such as if you are back to light work after a workplace injury and do not have any other causes for termination. However, if an employer fires you simply because they do not want to offer you workers compensation benefits any longer, you may be entitled to pursue legal action.

Discrimination on Workers Compensation

Retaliation does not always come in the form of termination. In some cases, employers may see fit to discriminate against their injured employees, often in an attempt to encourage the employee to leave. This, too, is illegal and can result in a lawsuit or other legal action. Discrimination may include taking away desirable shifts with no professional purpose, inappropriate comments, withdrawing duties that the employee is still able to perform, refusing to adhere to reasonable work restrictions and more.

There are some instances where an employer may fire an employee without cause in relation to a workplace injury, but many of these instances allow you to continue receiving wage replacement from workers compensation. This includes if you are fired because the employer cannot accommodate your work restrictions, the employer could no longer hold your job while you were out on workers compensation, or the company had to downsize/went out of business. While you may be covered under wage replacement in these cases, you may still be required to look for a job simultaneously.

Can You Get Fired While Out with a Disability?

Another part of workers compensation provides compensation for those who are rendered disabled due to a workplace injury. Types of workplace disabilities are:

  • Partial temporary disability

  • Partial permanent disability

  • Total temporary disability

  • Total permanent disability

Different types of disabilities can affect you in various ways, as well as your ability to work. A temporary disability, for example, may only require you to stay away from work for a few weeks while a permanent disability can severely impact your ability to work at your job or even in the same industry.

However, the same rules apply as above when it comes to workplace disability. If you are rendered temporarily disabled due to a workplace injury and your employer is no longer able to hold your job, they may be able to terminate you in order to hire a replacement. You may still be entitled to disability and wage benefits under workers compensation, however. In fact, most workers compensation policies also offer vocational benefits, which cover the cost of training in another field in case an injured is unable to return to their original industry due to the disability they obtained.

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