Can I Be Laid Off While on Workers’ Compensation?

December 3, 2020


Brent Eames

The average cost for a worker’s compensation claim is just over $41,000. The compensation varies, depending on the type of injury sustained.

Even without injuries, 83% of United States workers suffer from work-related stress. Not being able to work due to an injury can be detrimental to one’s mental health, even with worker’s comp.

Many employees who suffer work-related injuries wonder, “Can I be laid off while on workers’ compensation?”

Do you want to know whether being on workers’ comp is a legitimate reason for getting fired?

Keep reading to learn more about whether or not you can be fired while on workers’ comp leave.

What Is a Workers’ Comp Claim?

There were more than 2.8 million documented work-related injuries in 2017. 

Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides medical benefits and wage replacement to employees who get injured or ill at work. It helps protect business owners and their employees from financial losses should an employee get sick or hurt on the job.

It helps protect employees from the detrimental costs of work-related injuries. It also helps protect their employers from damages that could put them out of business because of workers’ comp claims.

A workers’ comp claim is kind of like an insurance claim. An employee files a workers’ comp claim as a request for benefits while they’re injured and out of work.

What Does Workers’ Comp Cover?

Workers’ compensation helps cover lost wages, medical expenses, and ongoing care costs. It also covers funeral expenses should an employee pass away due to a work injury. 

Workers’ compensation doesn’t cover everything, though. Rules vary from state to state concerning what situations at work warrant a claim. Typically, these are some situations that a workers’ comp plan wouldn’t cover.

  • Injuries an employee sustains while intoxicated in the workplace
  • Injuries that an employee gets on purpose
  • Injuries from a fight that an employee initiated
  • Emotional injuries not accompanied by a physical workplace trauma

Who Pays for Workers’ Compensation?

Employers who don’t pay for benefits purchase workers’ compensation to cover benefits for their employees. Many states require companies to carry workers’ comp, except for New Jersey and Texas. In those two states, coverage is elective.

Employees are not responsible for paying benefits. The cost of coverage depends on a few factors, such as:

  • The size of the business
  • The state’s laws
  • The type of work employees do
  • On-the-job risks

Can You Get Fired or Laid off While on Workers’ Comp?

When you’re injured on the job, you’re entitled to file a workers’ compensation claim to help alleviate the cost of treatments and provide income while you aren’t able to physically work. While this gets rid of a lot of stress while someone’s recovering and out of work, many employees worry whether or not they can be fired while on leave.

Many people are under the assumption that workers have immunity while on workers’ comp leave. Unfortunately, this is a common misunderstanding.

It is true that no employee can be terminated, laid off, or fired because they’ve filed a workers’ comp claim or because they’re on leave. However, they can lose their job for other reasons. 

It’s not uncommon for a person on workers’ comp to be one of the first people to be let go should a company have to downsize and make layoffs.

You Can’t Receive Unjust Retaliation While Receiving Workers’ Comp

Your employer is not legally allowed or entitled to retaliate against you for filing a workers’ comp claim. They can’t take away your benefits, lay you off, or fire you because you got injured at work. They can’t fire you because they had to use their workers’ comp insurance either.

However, they can lay you off for other reasons, and proving that it was in retaliation can be tough to do.

If you do get laid off during your leave, it’s crucial to get legal help. If you’re worried about losing your job while on leave, keep documentation showing you’ve been to all your medical appointments and followed your doctor’s advice in its entirety. It’s also important to keep your employer in the loop throughout your recovery process.

If you’ve followed your treatment plan, filed all your paperwork, and still get fired, you’ll need a lawyer to help you fight for wrongful termination. 

Work Performance Could Come Into Play

Whether you’re on workers’ comp or not, your employer is allowed to take your past work history into account. What was your work performance like before your injury? Were you written up, given warnings, or did you take long lunch breaks? 

Did you miss shifts on a regular basis?

Even if you’re on workers’ compensation and leave, your employer can fire you for any reason not related to your claim. If your past performance was fair at best, and your boss raised concerns with you in the past, they could choose to let you go because of your previous work performance.

It might seem unfair or inconvenient, but with the right documentation, it’s legal on behalf of your employer.

You Could Get Laid Off

If the company goes through significant changes while you’re on workers’ comp, you could get laid off. If others get terminated at the same time as you, it’s indicative of an issue different than your claim.

If your employer lays off multiple people at a time due to cuts or financial loss, it would be difficult for you to prove the reasoning was otherwise.

Companies are allowed to do what’s best for their business. While it might not seem fair to employees, it’s legal as long as they can back it up with documentation.

What if You Get Laid off During Your Workers’ Comp Claim?

It’s entirely possible to get fired or laid off while you’re on workers’ comp leave. Receiving benefits doesn’t give you immunity to company downsizing or other matters.

However, even though workers’ comp doesn’t equate to severance pay, you might still be able to receive benefits after your layoff. People who are on leave for workers’ comp while a layoff occurs could be eligible to receive benefits until they’re physically able to return to work.

When benefits do end, the employee would have to seek work somewhere else.

Don’t Let Fear Stop You From Filing a Claim

Don’t let worry dictate whether or not you file a workers’ comp claim to begin with. If you’ve been injured at work, filing a claim is how you’ll receive compensation to help take the financial burden out of your recovery process. 

Use it to your advantage, stay in touch with your employer, and focus on following your doctor’s orders and getting well.

If you’re worried that your employer might fire you while you’re on workers’ comp, talk to your lawyer about your rights. Keep all your documents so that you begin building a case should you be fired in retaliation.

How to File a Workers’ Comp Claim

If you’ve suffered an injury at work, one of the first things you’ll do is report that injury to your employer. Different states and employers have requirements for reporting an injury. Typically, you must report the injury within 30 days, but the sooner you do so, the better.

Check to see what your employer’s special procedure is for reporting workplace injuries. Make sure you follow protocol, so you don’t run the risk of losing out on making a claim.

Once you’ve reported the injury to your employer, you’ll get a copy of the First Report of Injury or Illness that your employer then filed with their insurance company. You’ll also receive a brochure explaining your rights.

If you qualify, you should start receiving bi-weekly benefit checks within 21 days of reporting your injury. If you don’t receive any checks or if there’s a dispute, you’ll have to attempt and resolve it with your employer.

If you have to file a petition, you’ll need the help of a workers’ compensation attorney to ensure you end up getting the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

While you’re in the recovery process and after the incident, be sure to keep up with medical appointments and follow all advice from your doctor. 

Call a Lawyer If You’re worried About Your Workers’ Compensation

If you were injured at work and are having a difficult time receiving your workers’ compensation, you shouldn’t hesitate to call a lawyer. Likewise, if you’re worried that filing a claim will get you fired, go ahead and file your claim anyway.

From there, you can keep up to date with documentation, go to all your medical appointments, and get help from an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer so that you don’t get wrongfully terminated or robbed of the benefits you deserve.

Are you ready to get in touch and find out how and if we can help? Contact us to set up an appointment or with any questions you have!

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