Can My Employer Fire Me if I am Unable to Work Because of an Injury and am Receiving Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Workers’ compensation provides payment for medical expenses and partial wage replacement benefits. However, it does not guarantee that a worker’s job will be indefinitely protected. At the same time, employers are prohibited from terminating an employee in retaliation for exercising his or her legal rights to file for workers’ compensation benefits.
Permissible Reasons for Termination
Florida is an at-will employment state. Employees or employers can terminate their employment relationship for any reason or no reason. For example, an employer can decide to terminate an employee for previous poor work performance, because of economic reasons that result in a layoff, restructuring the company or other reasons. Likewise, an employee can quit his or her job for any reason. However, the employer cannot terminate the employee for an illegal reason such as retaliation.
If the employee has an employment contract, the employer can only terminate the employment relationship only for those reasons that are specified in the employment contract. For example, the employment contract may state that the employer can terminate the employee if he or she is unable to work for an extended period of time such as six months. If there are not specific reasons listed in the employment contract, there may be a general provision that allows an employer to terminate an employee for “good cause,” which may be based on some misconduct on the employee’s part or excessive absenteeism.
It is illegal retaliation for an employer to terminate the employee solely because he or she filed a workers’ compensation claim. However, it may be difficult to establish that the employer fired the employee for this reason. The employer probably will not say that he or she is terminating the employee for filing the claim. However, there may be circumstantial evidence that infers that this is what happened. For example, termination shortly after a claim was received may be suspect. A sudden change in performance reviews when previous reviews were glowing may also be suspicious. This change may indicate that the employer is attempting to build a case against the employee after the workers’ compensation claim was filed.
If you have reached maximum medical improvement but you still have work restrictions, you will need to discuss these restrictions with your employer. While your employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations, this does not mean that your employer is required to provide every accommodation you would like to make. If you are unable to return to your job or you cannot perform your basic job functions even with accommodations, your employer can terminate your employment. Your employer can offer you alternative, light duty work.
If you have been injured on the job, contact a Board Certified New Port Richey workers’ compensation lawyer for help with your claim
Applying for workers’ compensation can be confusing. You may be concerned about filing a claim because of fear of retaliation. However, workers’ compensation benefits are available to injured workers. New Port Richey workers’ compensation attorney Joseph Rooth is Board Certified and has extensive experience in representing injured workers and can help you explore your legal options. We represent claimants throughout New Port Richey, Tampa Bay and the central gulf coast area. Contact us online or call us at 727-849-3400 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.