Could I Lose My Job If I File for Workers’ Comp?

In a 2021 report, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that an average of 2.8 out of 100 “full-time or full-time equivalent” American workers sustain workplace injuries every year. Considering that over 127 million people in the United States describe themselves as full-time employees, that means a sobering 380,000+ people are injured on the job each year.

If you’re injured at work and you are employed in the United States, you are entitled to file a workers’ compensation claim so that you can receive workers’ compensation benefits. However, some people worry about their employers’ reactions or even the possibility of retaliation. If you’re worried that you’re going to be fired or unjustly laid off for seeking workers’ compensation, here’s what you need to know.

Non-Retaliation Laws

The bottom line is this: It is illegal for an employer to fire, demote, or retaliate against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim. If you suspect your employer has or is thinking about terminating or demoting you because you filed a workers’ compensation claim, you need to speak with an attorney right away. 

The reason that some employers retaliate against employees is due to an increase in payments to their insurance companies. Because insurance exists to keep employees safe, and increased strain on the healthcare system causes insurance costs to rise, increased workers’ compensation claims cause employers’ insurance rates to go up. Even though they are legally required to report the incident, some employers also dislike having to do “paperwork” when a worker is injured on the job.

Because all 50 states have laws prohibiting employers from firing employees for filing workers’ 

comp claims, some disreputable employers will try to use a seemingly unrelated reason to fire or demote injured workers rather than stating the termination is due to filing a workers’ comp claim. If you think something seems suspicious, it may very well be. To ensure you can continue receiving workers’ compensation benefits, contact an attorney ASAP if something doesn’t seem right.

Your Employment Status

If you are filing for worker’s compensation, it’s important to understand your employee status. This doesn’t refer to whether or not you are employed. Rather, it refers to the type of employee you are. There are several categories that you might fall into, such as:

  • At-Will Employment: You are employed with the understanding that your employer may terminate your employment at any time, provided they give a valid reason. For instance, many restaurants and retail stores are “at-will” employers. In fact, most employers in the US qualify as “at-will employers.”
  • Contracted Employment: You are employed under the conditions that you meet specific contractual guidelines or workplace obligations. For instance, many public school teachers are contracted employees.
  • Subcontracted Employment: You are employed by a contractor who is required to meet certain guidelines or workplace obligations. For instance, many temp agencies hire subcontracted employees who work for them, but the workers are hired out to other companies.
  • Independent Employment: You are self-employed or qualify as an “independent contractor.” For instance, many people working in the “gig economy,” such as Uber drivers and DoorDash delivery workers, qualify as independent contractors.

While filling out your workers’ comp paperwork, be sure to correctly specify your type of employment. However, do not hesitate to file for workers’ compensation because you assume one of these specific categories of employees is not eligible for benefits. Everyone with an employer is eligible for workers’ compensation.

Essential Workplace Functions

The answer to the question “Will I lose my job for filing for workers’ comp?” is “no, it’s illegal” but that doesn’t mean your employer is prohibited from holding you to work standards that you can no longer adhere to. If you are badly injured on the job and can no longer perform essential workplace functions with “reasonable accommodation,” your employer may terminate you for being unable to perform the duties of your job. This is not illegal if the reason stated is clear and your employer has documented proof that you can no longer perform the duties of your position. However, if your employer does not offer reasonable accommodation or fails to tell you that you are entitled to reasonable accommodation, they may, in fact, be breaking the law. If this is the case in your situation, speak to an attorney right away.

Workplace Duties

Many at-will employers have no legal obligation to “hold your spot” when you are out of work recovering from injuries. However, your employer should make this clear before you return to work, rather than surprising you with your replacement once you show up back on the job site. The information relevant to your position should be given to you when you file a claim and as you follow the process to begin receiving benefits. If you suspect your employer is not providing enough information, seek help from your company’s human resources department or contact the US Department of Labor.

Let Our Attorneys Fight for You!

At the end of the day, it’s simple: Your employer does not have the right to fire you for filing for workers’ compensation. As an employee, you are entitled to the benefits provided by workers’ compensation insurance. Even though some employers may be able to terminate or lay you off for legitimate reasons (such as reduced job functionality or company-wide layoffs), the act of filing for workers’ comp should never be the reason you are terminated from a position. If you suspect your employer has unjustly taken action against you after filing for worker’s comp, don’t wait. Contact us today, and we’ll fight for you.

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