What happens if you’ve been injured on the job? You file a workers’ comp claim. Yet then a terrible fear is realized and you’re fired. Can you collect workers’ comp after being fired? How do workers comp and Florida law intersect? Can you hold your former employer accountable for firing you while on workers’ comp?
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is an insurance program. That means it’s there for when something goes wrong. Few feelings are worse than getting injured on the job. Aside from the physical pain and difficulty of an injury, there’s also a fear that you’ll be let go while you’re recovering. Not only will you have to pay your everyday bills, not only will you face fresh medical bills, but now you won’t even have the job that enables you to do that.
Workers’ comp covers medical benefits, lost wages, and potentially other forms of assistance.
Workers’ Comp and Firings
So long as you’re not fired for cause, workers’ comp will continue to pay you for your disability. If you are fired for cause, you need to determine if the cause is real. If it’s something your employer made up in order to get around workers’ comp and Florida law, then you have the makings of a lawsuit on your hands.
Employers are not supposed to fire someone out of retaliation for filing workers’ comp. Doing so would be illegal. These laws exist to protect employees who are injured on the job. Some employers will adhere to these; others will try to find their way around them.
Cooperating Toward Solutions
Florida law also allows ways for employer and employee to work together if the employee is no longer able to perform their regular tasks. They can figure out ways to reduce hours, change assignments, and reduce pay. Understand that there is a way that employer and employee can agree on these elements in order to move forward in a way that helps both. There are other ways that employers might dictate these terms that can be interpreted as retaliation – reduce pay is one of these.
Collecting Workers’ Comp Post-Termination
If you’re receiving workers’ comp, in many ways you can still be treated just like any other employee. You may be fired as a simple financial decision the way any regular employee might be fired. This happens.
If you’re fired before recovering from your injury, you still get to get to collect your workers’ compensation benefits. If you suspect you’re fired as a direct result of your injury, you can build the case for a lawsuit if you wish.
Let’s look at something more complicated. Let’s say you’ve returned to work. You have restrictions at work, decided on by your doctor, due to your prior injury. You’re fired at this point. What happens? The most likely scenario is that your workers’ comp benefits are reinstated. This is because the restrictions show that you weren’t healed. That indicates you hadn’t returned to your position completely, and that you would have been unable to work elsewhere in such a position. You still need the coverage workers’ comp benefits.
Again, if you’re fired with cause, you won’t receive those benefits. If your employers cannot prove that cause, though, then you once again have the makings of a lawsuit.
Return to Work
Your doctor decides what restrictions you’ll have at work, according to the regular tasks your job entails. Your employer has the ability to reject you returning to work with these restrictions. This means that you can’t return to work yet and that you’ll still receive your workers’ comp benefits until you’re more fully recovered.
If they do accept your return to work with restrictions, your employer may send a Notice of Ability to Return to Work. This is a good sign, as it means you’re able to return to your job. You, your doctor, and your employer should continue to communicate on restrictions until you’re fully recovered.
If you’re ready to return to work and you decide not to go back, you absolutely have that right. It does not entitle you to continue receiving workers’ compensation benefits, however. Once the doctor clears you to return to work without restrictions, it’s business as normal. Just like any other healthy employee who declines to go to work, you won’t have access to workers’ comp.
My Employer Fired Me for Filing Workers’ Comp!
You have the right to collect workers’ comp after being fired. If you were fired as retaliation for filing workers’ comp, or the employer has attempted to violate your rights to workers’ comp, you need to consult an experienced West Palm Beach workers comp attorney.
There’s always a temptation to simply trust your former employer, but they’re worried about the bottom line. That can make your job expendable. An experienced workers’ comp attorney at the LaBovick Law Group can help you know more about what rights you have, and what benefits and financial compensation you’ve earned and have the right to collect. You don’t want to leave money that’s yours on the table when you’ve been injured. You’ve already given your body to your employer; why would you give them the money and benefits that are rightfully yours as well?