In a situation that can literally be described as “adding insult to injury,” it happens more often than you would think that an employer will fire somebody after the employee gets injured on the job and makes a claim for workers’ compensation. While that scenario seems terribly unfair, it happens in Florida and, unfortunately, Florida law does not prevent it.
The workers compensation program in the State of Florida is called, as you might expect, the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act. The law is meant to protect injured workers from having to pay out-of-pocket for their medical expenses due to a job-related injury.
The law, however, has no provision to stop employers from terminating an employee after the employee gets injured on the job. Stated differently, in Florida an employer is not required to keep a job open for employees while they are recovering from injury that they suffered when they were on the job. That lack of protection means that employers can fire an employee who cannot come to work because of an injury.
In those kinds of cases, the question becomes: Did the employer fire the person because they filed a workers’ compensation claim for an injury, or did the employer remove the employee for some unrelated reason? It is a tricky question that requires some guidance from a Florida Workers’ Compensation Act attorney in Jacksonville.
In this article, we’re going to talk about those important questions, and how the Florida law applies in that situation. If you have additional questions pertaining to your own personal circumstances after reviewing this article, then we invite you to contact the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act Attorney in Jacksonville, FL – RITE Law. Our number is (904) 500-RITE or you can fill out our contact form online. Remember, we provide a free case evaluation, so call today.
What Does “Employment at Will” Mean?
The first order of business is to understand what the phrase “employment at will” means. You may have had heard that term before. It essentially says that an employer can terminate your employment at any time, for any legal/non-discriminatory reason. Most states are “employment at will” states, and Florida is no exception.
The one thing that can change the “employment at will” relationship is if there is a contractual agreement between the employee and the employer. If a contract exists, then the employer has to follow the terms of the contract related to terminating employees and cannot simply do it at will.
When it comes to the worker-injury situation we have been discussing, the “at-will” rule (assuming there is no contract) does not change. Even if you were injured on the job, you are still considered an “at-will” employee. So, the employer can terminate you and hire someone else to do your job if you take leave to recover from a work-related injury.
What’s most important to remember, however, is that your employer cannot terminate you because you filed for workers’ compensation. That is considered unlawful retaliation. Accordingly, if you do file a workers’ compensation claim, and your employer terminates you, you would be wise to get a Florida Workers’ Compensation Act attorney in Jacksonville to help you with your case.
Retaliation in Response to a Workers’ Compensation Claim is a No-No
Even though Florida is an “at-will” state, Florida law still does protect employees when they are fired in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Specifically, Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Retaliation Statute provides that:
No employer shall discharge, threaten to discharge, intimidate, or coerce any employee by reason of such employee’s valid claim for compensation or attempt to claim compensation under the Workers’ Compensation Law.
This law protects you from losing your job just because you filed a legitimate workers’ compensation claim. If an employer in Florida violates the Workers’ Compensation Retaliation Statute, then you can file a lawsuit claiming unlawful retaliation. Once the retaliation is successfully proven, you can recover different types of damages, including lost wages.
In order to demonstrate retaliation, you must prove three elements:
1. That you were doing a “statutorily protected activity.” Seeking for workers’ compensation when you are injured is a “statutorily protected activity.”
2. You were subject to an “adverse employment action,” such as termination or threats, intimidation, and coercion.
3. The exercise of your protected activity was the reason that you suffered an adverse employment action. Here, you have to prove that you were fired (or suffered some other adverse action) because you made a workers’ compensation claim.
That third causation element is the most important, and often the hardest to prove. In most Florida worker retaliation cases, the employee will first allege that retaliation occurred. Then, the employer responds by saying that there was some non-retaliatory reason for the termination. Finally, the employee gets the final say and will argue (with supporting evidence) that the employer’s assertion is merely a pretext for actual retaliation.
In sum, if you filed a workers’ compensation claim for a job-related injury and your employer terminated your position, then you likely have retaliation claim. You should contact a Florida Workers’ Compensation Act attorney in Jacksonville to help you get your job back.
Get Help for Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
Our RITE Law attorneys focus on workers’ compensation. That experience can be invaluable if you make a workers’ comp claim. At RITE Law, we started the firm for one reason – to help those in Florida and elsewhere have the resources of a firm that was “big enough to fight but small enough to care.” At Rudolph, Israel, Tucker & Ellis (RITE law), we have the resources and experience to go to trial when it is necessary, and we have the wisdom to advise you appropriately.
Without help from the RITE Law Florida Workers’ Compensation Act Attorneys in Jacksonville, making workers’ comp and retaliation claims can be very difficult. When you turn to our firm, we spring into action, making sure that every detail of your claim is addressed. Call us for help. Our number is (904) 500-RITE or you can fill out our contact form online. We provide a free case evaluation, so feel free to call us today.