What To Do When Terminated While On Workers’ Comp?
Someone once said that you never work to justify a salary; you work only to justify your livelihood. However, whoever said that was probably never receiving workers’ compensation.
Inherently and legally, you must justify receiving workers’ comp by filing a claim and with medical and legal documents.
And depending on the severity of your work-related injury or illness, you may even be allowed to refile and renew the continuation of workers’ comp after it ends.
Workers’ comp laws vary according to your state employment. In some states, workers’ comp payments could last for three to seven years on average.
Depending on the severity and life-altering nature of the work-related injury, as well as the integrity of accompanying legal and medical documentation, workers’ comp payments could technically last a lifetime; however, this is not the norm and would be under the most exacting of circumstances.
And even then, you would be paid a permanent partial disability payment, not your former full salary.
So, if you can legally and medically justify your workers’ comp payments, do you have to worry about getting fired.
The short answer is technically no, and the long answer is that legally it depends on your circumstances. We will describe these circumstances and offer advice on what to do if you are on workers’ comp and have been fired by your employer.
However, let’s first assess workers’ comp and its cost to employers.
If you’ve been fired while collecting workers’ comp or require legal guidance on workers’ comp, contact Invictus Law today.
Related – HOW TO BUILD A STRONG WORKERS’ COMP CASE
The Burden of Workers’ Comp on Employers
We are not implying that you feel sympathy for your employer paying for workers’ comp if you are injured on the job.
It is essential to understand some basic statistics relative to workers’ comp payments. It can only help you be as educated and informed as possible if you get fired while receiving workers’ comp.
Workers’ compensation insurance is an employer-sponsored income replacement for injured or ill employees due to work-related mishaps.
To receive workers’ comp, you must be checked out by a doctor, file a claim, and wait for the insurer’s decision. It is your doctor who decides whether your injury is work-related via your injuries and documentation.
And if your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company decides in your favor, it’s your employer who will pay your benefits.
Workers’ comp pays partial wages for a predetermined period, usually about 66% of your full wages. Additionally, workers’ comp may cover medical or funeral expenses.
Workers’ Comp Stats
According to data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.8 million employees incurred a workplace-related injury or illness in 2019. That is the equivalent of almost 3 out of every 100 employees getting injured or falling ill at work.
And in 2019, employers paid over $48.3 million in workers’ compensation insurance premiums.
The average workers’ comp settlement payment ranges between $41,000 to $78,500.
Depending on your doctor’s orders, you may be able to return to work in a modified and activity-restricted manner while on workers’ comp.
Now your employer can’t fire you just because you are receiving workers’ comp benefits. Depending on your state of residence, your employer may be able to fire you if you open a workers’ comp claim.
And even in that circumstance, your employer must prove you weren’t fired in retaliation for filing a workers’ comp claim.
In most circumstances, you will still be legally allowed to collect your workers’ comp benefits even after being fired.
However, here are a few circumstances where that may not always be true.
How to Get Fired While on Workers’ Comp
Do you know the status of your current job description? Knowing the answer to this question can mean the difference in getting fired while on workers’ comp.
Your boss isn’t going to tell you that they are firing you because of a workers’ comp claim. After all, that would leave them liable to retaliatory lawsuits based on discrimination.
Depending on your employment status, however, your employer could hide behind a few reasons while masking retaliation for paying workers’ comp.
Are you an “at-will” employee? Unless you have a job contract with reasons specifying terms that would justify termination, then your employer for any reason as long as it is not discriminatory or illegal.
For example, your employer could claim you are being terminated due to mandated layoffs, a company-restructuring, or an unsatisfactory employment record. As long as your employer can make up a possible legal reason for termination of at-will employment, they can do it with plausible deniability.
Additionally, you can walk off an at-will job for any reason as well.
Notice of Ability
If you open a workers’ comp claim against your employer, you should know that this act has all the import of a legal proceeding. Your employer will hire lawyers, consultants, and insurance experts on their behalf to assess your claims.
If your employer believes that you have recovered or that your injuries are not as severe as you claim, they may send you a Notice of Ability to Return to Work. It is a legal document that says your job is waiting for you to come back to work imminently.
Still, your employer cannot determine when you are ready to come back to work. Only your doctor can do that.
If your doctor says that you can go back to work with specified limitations, you should. Since your doctor would bill your employer for all medical expenses related to your work-related injury, your employer will be aware of such a determination.
If your employer sends you a Notice of Ability document and is aware of your medical clearance to return to work, but you refuse to do so, you could be fired while on workers’ comp. And you could lose your workers’ comp benefits.
Performing Strenuous Activities Against Doctor’s Orders
If your doctor instructs you not to perform certain activities after filing a workers’ comp claim, then you should follow medical advice.
Your employer can legally hire private investigators to follow you on your time off. If you go to a public gym to exercise or engage in general sports activities, your activities could be secretly documented by your employer.
Even if you are legitimately injured and are fighting through the pain or are anxious for physical activity, your employer can use verified proof of your workouts to fire you and void your claim.
What to Do
If you believe that you were fired for being on workers’ compensation, the burden will be on you to prove it, not your employer.
You will need to collect every legal and medical document related to your case. And you will need to have documented and verifiable proof that your employer fired you for retaliatory reasons.
It would help if you did not do this alone. Enlist the aid of professional lawyers.
File For Workers’ Comp With Legal Guidance.
Except for a few circumstances, your employer cannot fire you because you are on workers’ comp.
And it would be best if you didn’t disavow doctor’s orders relating to your medical condition or workers’ comp claim. Not following your doctor’s order can give your employer all the legal rights they need to fire you and terminate your benefits.
If you need guidance filing for workers’ comp, contact Invictus Law today.