Can I be injured at work, then fired?
So, you suffered a personal injury at work. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may be out of commission for a while. This can be disconcerting for employees: after all, what’s to stop your employer from simply hiring someone to fill your job, rather than waiting for you to come back? Maybe you’re even wondering if you can be injured at work, then fired immediately after.
You’ve probably heard of things like a workers’ compensation claim, medical leave, etc. If you’re wondering exactly what these laws mean and how much protection they award you, our attorneys at Gordon & Gordon have been assisting the injured workers of Shreveport-Bossier to collect workers’ compensation benefits for decades. We understand that it’s only natural to have concerns about job security when you’re unable to work for an extended period of time.
In this post, we’ll teach you about the workers compensation laws that protect injured workers while hopefully alleviating some of your fears and concerns.
If you’ve recently suffered a workplace injury, call a Gordon & Gordon workers’ compensation lawyer today at 318-716-HELP.
What is Workers’ Compensation?
First, it’s important to understand exactly how workers’ compensation works and what it even is.
Less than a century ago, a workplace injury was disastrous for an employee, to say the least. If you couldn’t work, then you couldn’t earn money for your family. Coupled with medical expenses related to the injury, the result was abject poverty for a lot of families.
Workers’ comp claim benefits exist as a sort of safety net. Louisiana requires nearly all employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This means that when there is a work injury, the injured employee receives some compensation while they are unable to work. This includes medical bills, lost wages, etc.
Can Filing for Workers’ Compensation Get Me Fired?
Many employees wonder if they can suffer work injuries, then get fired. After all, why would a company pay a worker to recover from their injuries at home when they could be paying someone else to work?
The answer is a little tricky. Louisiana is an “at-will” employment state, meaning either you or your employer can end your employment at any time, without warning. This is still the case even after you sustain a work-related injury.
Think of it this way: even though you’re at home recuperating from an injury, your employer is still paying you as if you were any other employee. They reserve the right to include you in any layoffs or systematic downsizing. So, technically, you can be injured at work, then fired.
You do have one extra layer of protection, though it seems like a technicality: you cannot be fired solely for receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
If you suspect you have been injured at work then fired solely for receiving workers’ comp benefits, it’s important you contact an attorney at Gordon & Gordon immediately. Proving that you were fired because you filed for workers’ compensation is difficult, but is nearly impossible without a thorough and experienced workers’ compensation attorney. More on this later.
Termination and Workers’ Compensation Claim Denial
Sometimes, terminated employees can suffer a workers’ compensation claim denial depending on the reasons behind their termination. Generally, employees will only endure this scenario if they:
- Were intoxicated by drugs or alcohol when their work injury occurred
- Suffered an injury while not at work (but they were supposed to be at work)
- Were injured by participating in a non-work-related activity, such as pranking other employees
- Got hurt while participating in illegal activity at work
In cases like this, employers can fire workers for wrongful employment conduct. Then the injured worker will likely suffer a denied workers’ comp claim.
Can I Be Fired After Returning to Work With Restrictions?
Your doctor is the one who will tell you when it’s safe to return to work. Before you’re fully recovered, however, they may allow you to work with restrictions. Working with restrictions is often called “light duty status.” Most likely, your doctor will give you a list of activities you should avoid at work for the time being.
As we discussed earlier, even if you’re back at work with restrictions, you’re still subject to layoffs or downsizing like any other employee. However, if you’re not fully recovered, your employer must continue paying workers’ compensation benefits until your doctor clears you to return to perform all your typical duties.
Can You Collect Workers’ Comp Benefits After Being Fired?
So, yes, an injured worker can be fired. You can even be injured at work, return to work with restrictions, and then be fired. But if your employer fires you, can you continue collecting workers’ comp? Or do these benefits evaporate along with your job?
The short answer is yes: Louisiana requires employers to pay workers’ compensation benefits even if they fire you. According to state law, it doesn’t matter whether you’re currently employed: if you get hurt at your job, you will receive workers’ compensation as long as your doctor states that you can’t work.
When your doctor clears you to go back to work with no restrictions, your workers’ compensation benefits will cease. If your former employer fired you, you’ll be responsible for finding new employment.
Can I Get Fired for Filing Workers’ Compensation in Louisiana?
In short, no. In many cases, employers who fire an injured worker just for filing a workers’ comp claim are engaging in what is called employer retaliation. More specifically, employer retaliation occurs when a manager or company fires an employee for taking advantage of a legal right or activity. So getting fired just for taking advantage of workers’ compensation benefits is certainly grounds for a lawsuit against your employer.
Injured workers who receive workers’ compensation benefits can suffer retaliation in other ways, too. If you experienced the following punishments for filing a workers’ comp claim, you also have grounds for a retaliation lawsuit:
- Reduced pay
- Being forced to use vacation days for medical treatment that’s related to your work injury
- Demotion in pay or work status
Possible Damages for Wrongful Termination
If you sue an employer for wrongful termination, you could receive many types of damages, including:
- More worker’s comp benefits
- Lost wages
- Getting your old job back
An experienced Shreveport workers’ compensation attorney at Gordon & Gordon can help you determine how much compensation you deserve for your wrongful termination.
Taking Legal Action After You Were Injured at Work Then Fired
In a nutshell: you can be fired in Louisiana at any time for any reason, and you can certainly be injured at work, then fired. But you’ll be able to receive medical benefits until you’re recovered, regardless of your employment status.
If you can prove that you were injured at work then fired for no reason other than your injury, then you may be able to pursue legal action. Gordon & Gordon’s attorneys can advise you about whether you have a strong enough case to bring to court and guide you throughout the entire process.
Call Gordon & Gordon Today for Your Workers’ Comp Needs
If you’ve been injured on the job and you’re confused about filing a workers’ compensation claim, call a Gordon & Gordon workers’ compensation lawyer at 318-716-HELP. It’s your legal right to receive benefits if you’re injured on the job. We take pride in every attorney-client relationship and we fight to protect all clients’ legal rights. For more information about how we can help you under Louisiana’s workers compensation law, make an appointment with us today.