Can You Be Fired for Being Injured on the Job?
Although many employees are aware that they may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits after being injured on the job, some may delay filing a claim out of fear that they will be fired as a result. Fortunately, taking this kind of retaliatory action is prohibited in Pennsylvania. Therefore, if you were hurt at work and were subsequently fired or demoted, it is critical to speak with an experienced work injury lawyer who can help you hold your employer accountable, while also collecting the compensation you deserve.
Workers’ Compensation Checks
In Pennsylvania, almost all employers are required to purchase or provide workers’ compensation insurance. This is true even if an employer has only hired one part-time worker. The state’s workers’ compensation laws ensure that employees who are injured on the job have access to medical care and wage replacement while they get back on their feet. Benefits include reimbursement for past medical expenses, as well as coverage for future treatment-related costs, including medication, medical supplies, hospital treatment, prostheses, and orthopedic appliances.
Injured employees whose claims have been approved are also eligible to receive compensation for lost wages in an amount that equals two-thirds of their average weekly wage, although the amount can never exceed $995 per week. These payments are not made until at least one week has passed since the injury occurred. However, if two weeks have passed since the date of the injury and the employee is still unable to return to work, he or she will also be eligible to receive retroactive payment for the first week of unemployment.
In most cases, employees who report their injury to a supervisor or employer immediately can expect to receive a check within three weeks. Employees whose claims are pending can also receive temporary compensation for up to 90 days. If this deadline passes with no word from the employer or its insurer about the case, or the employer denies coverage, injured workers can appeal the case to the Office of Adjudication.
The Law prohibits Pennsylvania employers from firing an employee simply because he or she was injured on the job or filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. However, employers are permitted to terminate an employee while a workers’ compensation claim is pending, but only if the reasons are unrelated to the injury.
If for example, an employer is forced to lay off multiple employees due to a lack of work, he or she may be justified in letting the injured employee go. For this reason, the details about how an injured worker was terminated are critical in determining whether an employee was fired unlawfully for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Unfortunately, even though it is unlawful, employers across the country continue to demote or terminate employees solely because they were injured on the job or filed a claim for benefits.
Pennsylvania is an at-will employment state, which means that most employees can be fired for any, or no reason at all, as long as the reason is not illegal. Although termination is the most common form of retaliation faced by injured workers who file workers’ compensation claims, there are a number of ways that an employer can attempt to punish an employee for filing a claim, including:
Increasing surveillance of the employee;
Giving unsupported negative comments on a job evaluation; and
Providing unjustified negative references.
These actions are all unlawful if motivated by a desire to terminate or punish an employee for filing a claim for benefits. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to prove that an employer’s decision to fire someone was related to the employee’s injury, especially if the employer cites a poor work performance or the violation of workplace policy as the reason for termination.
In these cases, it is important for injured workers to keep accurate records of the date of their injury, as well as the dates of notification to the employer. An employer’s reluctance to either approve or deny a claim after an injury or to accommodate for the worker’s disability can both help prove that an employer was motivated by the worker’s injury.
Accommodating Injured Employees
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees. This could include creating a modified work schedule, restructuring a job, or providing modified equipment. Many employers are happy to make these changes, especially if the modifications can be completed for a reasonable cost. Unfortunately, some employers who may not wish to make necessary accommodations will pressure an employee to leave a job or fire him or her outright.
This is only permissible when the employee’s injury makes him or her unable to complete the essential responsibilities of the position in question. Employers who fail to comply with these rules and discharge employees for filing workers’ compensation claims can be sued for wrongful termination. According to the state Supreme Court, these types of retaliatory action discourage employees from asserting their legal rights, which is in opposition to public policy.
Employees who can provide evidence that they were fired for reasons related to their injury can still collect workers’ compensation benefits, in addition to damages for wrongful termination. It is also important to note that once a workers’ compensation claim has been approved, the injured worker can continue to receive those benefits even after being terminated. For this reason, the most dangerous time for an injured employee is often when a workers’ comp claim is open and being investigated. Taking certain steps can help make it more difficult for an employer to delay reaching a decision or unfairly deny benefits, including:
Seeking medical attention as soon as the injury occurs;
Only seeking medical assistance from a doctor on an employer’s pre-approved list of physicians (with the exception of emergency treatment);
Notifying an employer or supervisor of the injury as soon as possible after the accident;
Providing the employer with a detailed report of the accident and any medical records related to treatment; and
Retaining a workers’ compensation attorney.
Although taking these steps does not guarantee that an employer will approve a claim or refrain from retaliating against an employee who filed one, it can go a long way towards convincing a judge that an employer wrongfully fired someone at a later date. Injuries that are reported promptly are also given more credence by employers and insurers.
Call Today to Discuss Your Case with an Experienced Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Many Pennsylvania residents know that when qualifying employees are injured on the job, they are eligible to collect workers’ compensation benefits. Few are aware, however, that employers are strictly prohibited from retaliating against employees for reporting an injury or filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Employers who violate public policy by firing an employee who was hurt on the job can be held accountable in court, so if you were injured while at work and were subsequently fired, please contact the offices of Krasno Krasno & Onwudinjo at 800.952.9640 to speak with a compassionate and dedicated workers’ compensation lawyer who is well-versed in both state and federal law and will aggressively defend your rights. And remember, our clients are not required to pay any fees unless their case is successful.
Disclaimer: This content is considered advertising and does not constitute any client-attorney privilege and does not offer any advice or opinion on any legal matter. This release was drafted by Results Driven Marketing, LLC, a digital marketing, Public Relations, Advertising and content marketing firm located in Philadelphia, PA.