can you get fired for being injured on the job

An injury always comes with not only a great deal of pain and discomfort but a lot of stress as well. When you get injured while working, that stress is amplified to a whole new level. The biggest worry is most likely the scariest question of all – can you get fired for being injured on the job?

According to the specific state laws (which can vary from state to state) your job position is safe and you cannot get fired simply because you suffered a workplace accident. 

However, you can get fired for a lot of other reasons once you do return to work again. Hold your horses – we’re going to explain different scenarios and by the end, hopefully, the question of can you get fired for being injured on the job won’t sound so menacing anymore.

Protection for injured workers

Your employer might have a non-work-related injury policy ensuring that you stay employed. But if you get hurt on the job, in most cases, your position is protected while you’re recovering. 

If you’re living in any state except Wyoming and Texas, you’re in luck as companies are required by the state to maintain workers’ compensation insurance. With this program, you are qualified to receive benefits for your work-related injuries, which include medical expenses, ongoing care, partial recovery of lost wages, and even disability benefits if your condition is serious enough.

You’re probably thinking about whether your employer has to hold your job until you return, and if yes for how long.

Unfortunately, no law requires employers to keep your job while you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits. 

Depending on the size of the company you’re working for you might have an extra layer of protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave every 12 months, while your employer must hold your job or a comparable position with the same benefits and pay while you’re on a leave.

This only applies if you and your employer qualify for FMLA. The company you work for must meet certain criteria for this law to apply, such as:

  • It has to be a private-sector company that employs at least 50 employees in at least 20 weeks in the preceding or current year.
  • A local, state, federal government, or public agency (no minimum employee requirements).
  • An elementary or secondary school (no minimum employee requirements).

As an employee, you can take an FMLA leave if:

  • You worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months
  • You worked for 1,250 hours during the 12 months preceding the leave
  • You work at a location where there are at least 50 employers within a 75-mile radius. 

When can you get fired for being injured on the job?

The answer isn’t as clear-cut as everyone expects it to be. All the protections we outlined do have limitations that even apply to workers’ compensation benefits. For example, you may not be covered if your injury occurred while you were intoxicated or in a physical altercation.

What further complicates the question of whether can you get fired for being injured on the job is that almost all states, save for Montana, are at-will employment states. That means both you and your employer can end your employment at any time. This relates to reasons that are not protected by law such as race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, and most importantly (in the case of injured employees), filing for workers’ compensation.

So outside Montana, your employer cannot fire you for being injured but they can legally fire you for any other reason without warning.

Some employers also have policies about employees going back to work on modified or lighter duty for a particular period. If you exceed the time your employer has put on light duty work, you also might get fired while on a job.So in a sense, if you cannot complete your essential job skills and responsibilities, your employer can terminate you. This flies in the face of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which requires employers to reasonably accommodate injured personnel before they fire them.

For instance, that might call for modifying the schedule, restructuring the job, and providing specified equipment. 

However, these accommodations must be considered reasonable as they cannot excessively impact your employer’s budget and operations. This is especially true for smaller organizations that simply cannot afford to make a lot of accommodations. 

What constitutes wrongful termination?

Now that we clarified when can you get fired for being injured on the job rightfully, we have to address the topic of wrongful termination. When you file a workers’ comp claim, your employer’s premium is likely to increase. As a result, they can fire you in retaliation while you’re receiving your benefits. 

This also extends to the scenario in which an employer has to make accommodations to allow you to perform your work duties. Some employers will outright avoid making the requested accommodations and instead, will put unnecessary pressure and harass the injured employee to leave the job. 

While you’ll continue receiving your workers’ comp benefits even if you’re terminated, you might have legal options in case such a scenario does happen.

First thing first, you need to acquire all the possible evidence before taking action. Keep copies of all documentation you have (including emails) and take notes of everything that happened in the meeting with your manager or the human resources manager. This information might help you support your claim. 

You can then file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Department of Labor. If you think you were a victim of wrongful termination, you might even be able to file a suit against your former employee. Though it can be difficult to prove retaliation, an experienced attorney in your corner gives you a fighting chance.

That brings us to…

Find an attorney

So that answers the question of can you get fired for being injured on the job. While the answer turned out to be more complex, rest assured that whatever happens, you always have legal recourse. 

Your entire life can change in an instant if you’re injured. On top of that, you might lose your job which can severely impact your livelihood. 

Employers can have a hard time understanding their injured worker’s perils. For that reason, they might resort to simply firing you in lieu of accommodating your condition resulting from working for them and risking their bottom line.

Whatever the reason may be, you should contact an attorney and explore the options you have. This is especially important if you have a nagging feeling that you’ve been wrongfully terminated. An experienced attorney can help you understand your legal options and explain what damages you might be entitled to from your employer.

Attorneys at RITE have tons of experience with wrongful termination suits and are available 24/7 to offer you the best legal counsel possible. We can help you pursue justice if you think you are a victim of wrongful termination. Call us at (904) 500-RITE or fill out our contact form and remember – the law is always on your side.

Note:

The information in this blog post is for reference only and not legal advice. As such, you should not make legal decisions based on the information in this blog post. Moreover, there is no lawyer-client relationship resulting from this blog post, nor should any such relationship be implied. If you need legal counsel, please consult a lawyer licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.