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.
The Uncertain Future of Florida Workers’ Compensation System
Florida’s workers’ compensation system has been a hot topic this year among lawmakers, businesses, and labor groups in the wake of two Florida Supreme Court rulings that found parts of the system unconstitutional. The immediate result of these rulings has been a substantial rate increase for Florida businesses. Businesses express concerns about the amount of money spent on attorneys who represent injured workers. Workers’ compensation attorneys are troubled by insurance companies who do not properly pay claims to the insured. Labor unions are unhappy with a system that has reduced benefits for those injured on the job. Overall, it looks to be a tumultuous year ahead for the workers’ compensation system.
Supreme Court Rulings Have Serious Impact
In April of this year, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the attorney fee schedule, which was passed in 2009 as part of state reforms, is unconstitutional under Florida’s constitution as well as the U.S Constitution. It ruled that the fee schedule was a violation of due process, because it presumes that the attorney fee, which is based according to the schedule, is reasonable, thereby eliminating the right of a claimant to refute or negotiate another fee.
The Florida Legislature has expressed concerns about excessive attorney fee awards and has tried to standardize fees to address that concern. The Florida Supreme Court held that the statutory fee schedule did not reflect the time and effort that would be required by a claimant’s counsel. Furthermore, adherence to that schedule resulted in a substantial and increasing gap between the fees paid to claimant attorneys and those paid to counsel representing employers or carriers in the same case. The Court also noted that, since the law does not provide a standard to adjust fees when the recovery is too high in relation to the time and effort involved, excessive fees are still a result of the statutory fee schedule. Current law, it determined, discourages attorneys from representing claimants in certain cases.
Subsequently in another case, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state’s statutory 104-week cap on temporary disability benefits was also unconstitutional, saying the limitation resulted in a statutory gap in benefits which violated the constitutional right to access to court.
Resulting Rate Increases
In response to the rulings, the National Council of Compensation Insurers (NCCI), which files on behalf of Florida insurers, instituted a rate increase request of 19.6 percent. The request was denied by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), and NCCI was instead ordered to amend and refile its rate increase for 14.5 percent. In October, that rate request was approved for all policies effective December 1, 2016.
Florida insurance advocates believe that employers and small business owners will suffer unless the state revamps the workers’ compensation system to address these new Court rulings.
Workers’ compensation laws are complex so trust a skilled Florida workers’ compensation attorney to successfully navigate the system
Florida’s workers’ compensation laws are complex. The recent changes brought about by the Florida Supreme Court rulings can make the laws all the more confusing. If you or a loved one has suffered a work-related injury, don’t try and navigate the worker’s compensation system alone. Since 1994, Board Certified workers’ compensation lawyer Joseph M. Rooth of The Rooth Law Firm has helped injured and disabled workers obtain much-needed medical and wage replacement benefits for their work-related injuries. Contact our office today at 727-849-3400 or online to schedule a free consultation. With convenient offices located in New Port Richey, Spring Hill, Seminole and Clearwater, we serve clients in New Port Richey and throughout the Tampa Bay area.
Your workplace should be a safe haven where you can do your job effectively without fear of injury or illness. However, accidents can happen anywhere. You can work in a safe office environment where the most dangerous thing appears to be the sharp corner on your desk, but still be seriously injured when you slip on a puddle or burn yourself on a malfunctioning coffee pot. Of course, if you work with heavy machinery or chemicals, the risk for injury or illness is much greater.
If you are injured on the job, your medical care and time lost from work should be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. In Florida, all businesses that have four or more employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Some employees can be exempt from coverage, such as business owners or real estate agents who work exclusively on commission.
To get workers’ compensation benefits, it is important that you act quickly and appropriately after an accident at work. If you are injured, you need to alert your employer and seek medical attention immediately. For minor injuries, such as a cut or sprain, you may be able to get first aid care on the scene. However, if the accident is more serious, such as a fall from a great height or a head trauma from a piece of heavy machinery, you should seek emergency medical care.
To receive workers’ compensation benefits, you must be treated by a doctor designated by your employer and the workers’ compensation board. You may be able to see your own doctor if you request the change in writing and it is approved.
It doesn’t matter if you are injured on site or off. If you are working on behalf of your employer at another location — such as by making a delivery or visiting a client off site — you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
After you seek medical treatment, you should contact a New Port Richey workers’ compensation attorney. The extent of your injuries may not be immediately apparent when you file your workers’ compensation claim, so you may not get the full compensation that you deserve. An experienced attorney will work with a team of experts on your behalf to make a case for how your work-related injuries will impact your life, both in terms of the medical care you will need and in your ability (or inability) to work.
Work-related injuries are not always apparent. Repetitive motion can cause stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis that can cause chronic pain. Exposure to toxic chemicals over time can lead to life-threatening diseases. For example, exposure to asbestos and benzene — common industrial chemicals — have both been linked to cancer.
Attorney Joseph Rooth, is a highly-skilled New Port Richey workers’ compensation attorney at The Rooth Law Firm. Trust attorney Rooth to build a strong case to show how your work environment led to the development of serious health conditions, helping you get the full compensation you deserve for what may end up being lifelong medical care, as well as your pain and suffering.
Attorney Joe Rooth of The Rooth Law Firm has been representing injured workers in New Port Richey for decades, and our team is committed to getting you the full compensation you deserve for your workplace injuries. We serve as a tough legal advocate for your rights while acting with compassion as we guide you through the legal process. Call us today at (727) 849-3400 to find out how our New Port Richey workers’ compensation attorney can help, or contact us online.