What to do if you’ve been fired while receiving workers’ compensation
In North Carolina, you shouldn’t have to wonder or worry about your employment status after reporting a work injury or illness. Employees are given specific protections under the law that should help you keep your job.
Unfortunately, things don’t always work as they should, and it’s possible for an employer to decide to fire you for retaliatory purposes. In some cases, your employer could also be justified in firing you if your case fits a specific set of criteria.
Knowing your rights as an injured worker in North Carolina helps you to avoid becoming a victim of retaliation.
Can you be fired for filing a workers’ comp claim?
Technically, you cannot be fired for filing a claim for workers’ compensation. However, because North Carolina is an at-will employment state, your employer may decide to terminate you for other reasons. For example, they may legally choose to fire you if you are no longer able to perform your essential job duties.
Employers must make reasonable efforts to make accommodations to fit an employee’s new abilities so that they can keep their job. Or an employer may offer a more suitable position that has similar wages and benefits. If these options aren’t possible, then you could be let go on the basis of your employer no longer being able to find a way to help you to continue working in your former position.
What is North Carolina’s Retaliatory Discharge Act (REDA)?
REDA protects employees from retaliation from their employer for certain protected situations such as filing workplace safety complaints. When you are worried about being fired after workers’ comp claims, you should know that receiving compensation for a work-related injury falls under this protection.
However, again, your employer could attempt to prove that the firing was warranted based upon your behavior or performance on the job.
When can an employer fire someone who is receiving workers’ comp?
Being fired while receiving workers’ compensation benefits can also happen if you are accused of gross misconduct at work. This sometimes happens when the employer finds evidence during their injured employee’s absence that indicates they weren’t performing their job duties correctly.
If this happens to you, then you may still have a case for a claim against retaliatory firing, depending upon the circumstances. Your lawyer can help you to know if the claims of misconduct would hold up in court.
What happens if you feel like you were wrongfully fired?
If you believe that you were wrongfully fired for getting hurt on the job, then it’s important to file a claim with the North Carolina Department of Labor within 180 days. The Department of Labor will then investigate the claim and provide you with their findings.
If the Department of Labor determines that you have the right to sue, then working with an employment lawyer will help you to further protect your interests.
What should you do if you are pressured to resign?
Sometimes, the issue gets even more complicated when your employer offers you a choice. Some employers try to skate around employment law and worker protections by pressuring an injured employee to resign from their position. Your employer may even offer you a settlement to try to convince you to leave your job quietly and not file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. In this type of situation, it’s important to avoid agreeing to anything before speaking to your lawyer.
Once you accept a settlement or sign a contract, then you could be legally bound to stick to the agreement. This could cause you to miss out on receiving thousands of dollars for your lost wages, medical treatment and emotional distress.
Sadly, many people will agree to resign out of the hope that they will be more likely to secure a new job in the future. Yet, not having the compensation that you need for a full and healthy recovery could leave you struggling to find gainful employment in the future. Even if you believe the accident was partially or fully your fault, you have the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits for your injury without the fear of being fired.
Can you lose your benefits if you get fired while on workers’ comp?
Getting fired after filing a workers’ compensation claim leaves you in a lurch. Your biggest fear is likely to be that you could lose out on all of your benefits. The good news is that in North Carolina, you’re still entitled to continue receiving your benefits as long as you are under doctor’s restrictions and unable to find a job or attend work.
If you’re no longer under doctor’s restrictions and can’t return to work because you were fired for misconduct, then you may lose your benefits. Being fired for misconduct can only happen legally if another employee would have lost their job for the same offense, and it must not have anything to do with your injury.
Once again, this is an area where an employer may try to obscure the truth about what happened, which gives you good cause to seek legal advice that can potentially help you to retain your benefits.
Losing your job at the same time that you are also dealing with a work-related injury is devastating. Not only may you be worried about your ability to work in your former position again, but you must now deal with the potential loss of your income.
If you believe that you have been wrongfully fired, then take action right away. Contact an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer at Wilder Pantazis Law. We know North Carolina’s workers’ compensation and employment laws inside and out, and we can help you determine if you are a victim of retaliatory firing.