If you are injured at work, you are likely covered by workers’ compensation. All employers with three or more employees in Georgia are required to carry workers’ comp, according to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. However, many employees are afraid to file a claim for fear that they can lose their job while on workers’ compensation.
Being injured at work can lead to a lot of medical bills and missed work time as you recover. You might not be able to return to work for days, weeks, or even years depending on the severity of your condition. You might worry about what will happen while you’re gone and upon your return to the workplace. Will your job still be there? Will your employer have replaced you? Will you lose your job during the time you’re gone?
Your employer cannot fire you for filing a workers’ comp claim, but they can terminate you for other reasons while your claim is still open. However, if they do this, they will need to show why they fired you and that is was unrelated to your workers’ comp claim.
How Can My Employer Fire Me During a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
You are probably employed “at-will,” which means your employer has the right to terminate your employment for any reason—or for no reason. On the flip side, it means you would have the right to quit your job for any reason or for no reason.
Reasons other than your workers’ compensation claim that you might lose your job could include:
- Poor or insufficient job performance
- Financial issues in the company unrelated to your performance
- Company restructuring
- If the employer no longer has a use for your job position
These are all legal reasons an “at-will” employee could lose their job. However, it is possible for your employer to feel more inclined to let you go because of your workers’ comp claim. They would obviously not admit to this, as it is illegal, but it might play a role.
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What Would Happen if I Lost My Job While on Workers’ Compensation?
Since you are likely on employment “at-will”, it is possible to lose your job once you return to work and are still receiving on workers’ compensation. You might assume that having a work injury awards you an extra degree of protection from being fired, but this is not legally the case. As long as your employer does not fire you for being on workers’ comp or filing your claim, they have the right to do so.
If your employer fires you while you’re on workers’ compensation and you suspect your claim is the main reason—even if they give another reason—you should contact a workers’ compensation lawyer right away.
If it’s found that your employer terminated you because you are filed a workers’ compensation claim and/or are receiving workers’ comp benefits, you would have the right to sue them for discrimination.
Retaliatory termination is when an employer fires an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim or reporting that they were injured at work. Most employers will not actually admit to doing this, and they will especially avoid telling the terminated employee the real reason. They know that revealing you lost your job because of workers’ comp is grounds for a lawsuit.
This is why it’s so important to contact a lawyer if you believe you might have lost your job as a result of reporting your work injury or bringing a workers’ comp claim. A lawyer can help you investigate the situation and gather evidence to show the employer’s discrimination.
What if I Return to Work on Restrictions and Then Lose My Job?
If you are recovering well after your work injury, your doctor may clear you to return to work. You might be given certain restrictions compared to the degree of work you could do before. For example, your doctor may give you a lot of specific activities you shouldn’t do until you fully recover.
When you are still recovering, even if you return to work, your employer may still be paying you workers’ compensation—especially if you were given a different type of job to accommodate any disabilities.
Again, it might seem like these changes give you added protection from losing your job. Unfortunately, you can still get terminated if your employer gives a reason beyond your claim. If you suspect the reason is related to you being on workers’ comp and you can prove it, it’s time to consider legal action against your employer.
What Happens to My Workers’ Compensation Benefits if I Lose My Job?
You might worry about what happens to your benefits if you lose your job while on workers’ compensation. workers’ comp is meant to provide wages even when you cannot continue working due to your work injury. Those benefits allow you to continue paying for living expenses and other costs resulting from your condition.
If you are laid off after you have begun receiving benefits from a workers’ compensation claim, it does not typically affect your legal right to those benefits. Since your injury happened while you were working, you should still be covered until you fully recover.
Once you are recovered as fully as possible, your doctor will give you the clear to return to work, including any restrictions that you may now have. You can send a copy of your release documents to your employer, and they may choose to allow you to return to work. However, even if they do not, you should continue receiving your workers’ comp benefits.
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Talk to a Workers’ Compensation Attorney for Free Today
A work injury can be stressful in many ways. Besides the pain and costs of the injuries, you have the added worry of losing your job for any reason during the process. If you lose your job after you’ve filed a workers’ comp claim and suspect your employer let you go because of the claim, contact Georgia workers’ compensation lawyers John Foy & Associates as soon as possible.
Our workers’ compensation lawyers have been supporting injured workers with their claims for over 20 years. We can help you build a strong claim and ensure you aren’t taken advantage of at any point during the process. To schedule a FREE consultation with the best lawyer for your case, call us or contact us online to get started today.