Accidents happen at work. In fact, there are more than 2.8 million annual work-related personal injuries in the United States. Some workers may try to hide their injuries because they fear they may lose their job after filing a workers’ compensation claim. Injured workers may see a doctor using their personal health insurance and take sick days or leaves of absence to recover and get back to work quickly.
Oftentimes, though, this can lead to huge medical bills not covered by health insurance and leaves a worker no choice but to file a workers’ comp claim. If you are one of the millions injured on the job, you may be nervous about whether your job is at risk after filing a workers’ compensation claim. So, is it? Can you get fired for filing for workers’ compensation?
The answer in Pennsylvania is not as clear-cut as you may think. While technically employers cannot terminate an employee because of a workers’ comp claim, they do have the right to fire or terminate you for other reasons after a claim is filed or even while you are collecting benefits, especially in Pennsylvania where most employment is considered “at-will.”
- What Is At-will Employment?
- Doesn’t Workers’ Compensation Protect My Job?
- Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Fired Employees
- Protect Yourself from Being Fired After Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim
- Retaliation for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim
What Is “At-Will” Employment?
Employees who are considered “at-will,” rather than contracted union members, are at the greatest risk of being terminated after filing a workers’ compensation claim. “At-will” employers have the right to lay off or fire employees at any time, and employees also have the right to quit at any time.
If your company is an at-will employer, your boss can cite other reasons for letting you go even if you are receiving workers’ comp benefits including:
- Violating safety protocols
- Documented poor performance
- Planned company-wide layoffs
If your overall work performance has been satisfactory, you should not have to worry about being fired after filing a claim, however, it’s important to understand that workers’ compensation doesn’t protect your job the way you may think.
Does Workers’ Compensation Protect My Job?
Many workers believe that workers’ compensation protects their job and employment benefits. This is not true. The PA Workers’ Comp Act only requires an employer to provide compensation for lost wages when you are out of work, or when you are in a lower-paying job due to the injury, but it does not actually protect your job itself.
The employer is not required to “hold” the position for you until you are able to return to work. If your employer must hire someone to do your job while you are out of work, they are within their right to do so, provided they offer you a reasonable replacement position.
If you want to keep your pre-injury position for when you have fully recovered, you should talk to your employer about FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act). FMLA is a federal law requiring covered employers to provide employees with unpaid leave and job protection for up to 12 weeks per year.
There are several qualified medical and family reasons for taking FMLA, so talk to your human resources professional about your options.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Fired Employees
Even if an employer terminates you for an at-will reason while you are receiving benefits, their insurance company is still required to continue to pay for your medical treatments and lost wages. Your benefits should continue after you were terminated while you are recovering from your injury.
Other employment benefits such as health insurance and retirement contributions, however, are not required to continue once you are terminated. Your company handbook may outline what employment benefits are available to you after separation.
Protect Yourself from Being Fired After Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim
The last thing injured employees should have to worry about is protecting their job after filing a workers’ comp claim. Unfortunately, some employers will try to find reasons to let an employee go in order to save money.
The most important thing to protect your job if you are injured at work is to file your workers’ compensation claim immediately after being injured. In Pennsylvania, you are required to give notice of your injury within 120 days of it occurring (although, if you want your benefits to start immediately, the deadline is 21 days), and you should promptly get a medical evaluation of your injury. These important steps are the best way to protect your job in the long run.
If your injury is documented, this protects you from your employer claiming your job performance is suffering or you are underperforming in your tasks because you are physically unable to do your work. Injuries that happen outside of work that affect job performance are valid reasons to terminate a position. Be sure to document everything related to your injury.
Another way to protect your job when filing a claim is to pay close attention to how your employer reacts. If your supervisor seems angry or irritated about the claim, and you are subsequently fired, this may constitute retaliation or wrongful termination.
Retaliation for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim
The bottom line is it is entirely illegal for your employer to fire you and cite a workers’ comp claim as the reason – and most employers know this. Firing an employee for filing a workers’ comp claim can lead to an employment discrimination civil lawsuit.
If you believe you are being treated unfairly because you filed a workers’ compensation claim, it is important to keep all documentation and evidence. Print all emails and save any correspondence or paperwork that may be helpful should you choose to open a civil case.
Contact Lancaster’s TOP Workers’ Comp Attorneys About Your Case!
The Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system is complex and navigating the system can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, employers take advantage of injured workers all the time to avoid paying out valid claims. If you feel overwhelmed with the piles of paperwork, documents, and details of your injury, know that you are not alone.
Georgelis Injury Law Firm is here to help. Our skilled, aggressive, and experienced workers’ compensation attorneys have worked on thousands of workers’ comp cases and know the ins and
outs of the system. When you call for a free consultation, know our firm is on your side and that you have an ally that will make a huge difference in the outcome of your case.
Georgelis Injury Law Firm has recovered more than $60,000,000 for our clients and we have won 99% of our cases. We are available 24/7 to answer your questions, and we can come to you if you can’t come to us, or we can schedule a virtual consultation! Our goal is to ease the burden of a worker’s comp claim and make it easy on you. Contact us today at 1-800-HURT-NOW!