If you get injured at work, you need to cope with both pain and trauma and a plethora of frightening thoughts like how do I provide for my family? What if I’m unable to pay for my treatment?
In all that chaos many people never stop to consider whether there is any protection if they’re injured at work then fired.
We’re here to remind you that you have legal options, even in the worst-case scenario. Let’s see how they apply to your particular situation so you can sleep easy knowing that your life won’t fall apart if you get injured at work then fired.
Workers’ compensation for the rescue
Naturally, you can’t earn money if you suffered a workplace injury and are incapacitated to an extent that you’re unable to return to work for a significant amount of time. How are you supposed to make a living until you make a full recovery?
Enter Workers’ compensation insurance – a safety net for employees that get injured on the job.
This insurance is purchased by the employer and provides benefits to employees who get injured at work.
This compensation might include medical expenses resulting from your injury, as well as missed wages. The benefits you can receive are based on your weekly wage and in most cases this amounts to upwards of two-thirds of your weekly income.
Can I get fired or laid off?
Most workers who file a claim to get compensated wonder if their employer is going to fire them. This is called retaliation and it refers to an employer penalizing a worker for engaging in a protected activity.
While it does sometimes happen, improper termination can cause a severe financial hit to your employer. They could get sued for punitive damages and would just end up paying more.
In Florida, you not only have several federal statutes protecting you from retaliation, but the Title VII of the Florida Civil Rights Act also makes it illegal for your employer to fire you for engaging in protected activity.
Still, you might be concerned about whether or for how long your employer will hold your job and whether they will just replace you.
The answer to that question is a bit more complicated. Almost all US states (save for Montana) are ‘’at-will’’ states. This means that both you and your employer are working of your own volition without any long-term contractual obligations. This means you can leave your job at any time and your employer can’t pursue you legally for doing so.
The opposite also applies: your employer can terminate your employment without a cause except for specific reasons such as age, any form of discrimination (age, racial, religious, etc.) retaliation, or whistleblowing.
So if you get injured at work then fired, it might not be related to you filing a compensation act. Every business has to stay productive so there are never any guarantees you’ll get to keep your job. You might be included if there is a round of layoffs or if systemic downsizing happens and the fact that you’re receiving benefits doesn’t mean you are protected from termination.
Do keep in mind that if you’ve worked for at least 12 months, logged at least 1250 hours and your company employs 50 or more employees you might have an extra layer of protection from the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It provides employees who are eligible with up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave every year. This federal act will ensure your job stays protected during the time you are away.
What about working with restrictions?
If you’re recovering from your injury and your doctor gives you a green light to return to work with a lighter workload, you will return to work with restrictions. In that case, a medical professional will provide you with a list of activities you need to avoid until you heal completely.
Be prepared for your employer to move you to a position within the restrictions with the corresponding pay. If that happens, and your new position pays less than your pre-injury job, the workers’ compensation insurance will make up the difference.
Can you get fired in this scenario?
Yes, because working with restrictions doesn’t give you any additional benefits, you’re still an employee like everyone else. That is unless your firing isn’t your fault in which case you are entitled to your wage loss benefits.
In case you are treating your injury and you’re still working full duty, you’re going to be treated the same as other employees if you get laid off. This is why we advise you to follow doctor-instituted restrictions instead of rushing to receive a full-duty release.
We also can’t stress enough that you shouldn’t quit if you’re struggling with work while under restrictions. Instead, you should turn to your doctor to have your restrictions clarified. The same applies to the scenario in which you are moved to a less-paying job. If you feel that your job or the pay is demeaning, you still shouldn’t quit.
Although the new position might seem demeaning to you, the fact of the matter is that your employer still sees it as a worthwhile job that needs to be done.
What happens to my benefits if I get fired?
The next important question is what happens to your workers’ comp benefits if you are injured at work then fired. There is good news here because even if your job is gone, you’ll continue receiving your benefits.
The law dictates that even if you lose your employment status, as you injured yourself at work, you are entitled to the benefits that include lost wages and medical benefits.
Once you are recovered to a limited extent, your doctor might release you to work with restrictions. When you receive your release documentation, you must provide it to your employer at which point they can accept or reject your return to work.
If they accept your release, you might receive a Notice of Ability to Return to Work. This document means that the insurer has medical evidence that you are capable of returning to work, even in a limited capacity.
If your employer rejects you, you’ll continue receiving your benefits until you’re fully recovered.
Naturally, if your doctor has determined that you can return to work and your employer is willing to accept your return if you choose not to go back, you’ll stop receiving your benefits. After all, you can’t take advantage of the Workers’ compensation insurance indefinitely.
The law is on your side
With livelihood on the line, getting injured at work then fired is one of the biggest fears an employee can have. Nevertheless, the Workers Compensation Act is there to protect you and help you recover without losing sleep over your ruined financial state.
If you get wrongfully terminated, you still have legal recourse you can use.
Depending on the circumstances, if you get injured at work then fired right away, you might be able to resort to a wrongful termination suit. When you file the claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission and your employer ignores your request or fires you, you need to contact an attorney right away as your case will most likely go to a hearing.
If you are unsure about what to do if you get injured at work then fired, attorneys at RITE are at your disposal. 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 on your side.
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.