When you suffer a work-related injury, endless questions arise: How can I continue to pay my bills? Support my family? Cover medical expenses? How soon can I get back to work? What do I do now?
Workers’ compensation is designed to answer many of these questions and give you the financial support you need to bridge the gap until you can get back on the job. But for all the solutions it provides, it does also pose up a few more questions of its own. One of the most pressing: does filing a claim impact future employment?
Note: If you feel you have been discriminated against by an employer because you have filed a claim previously, do not hesitate to contact a workers’ compensation attorney at South Florida based LaBovick Law Group.
Does a Workers’ Comp Claim Make You a “Liability”?
This is certainly a concern. Will an employer see you as a liability or a troublemaker? Are they worried about hiring you because you may put them at legal or financial risk? Does a claim make you “undesirable” as a candidate?
Scrupulous employers recognize that workers’ compensation is a necessary, and legitimate, a business expense. They also know that despite rigorous safety standards, procedures, and training, accidents and injuries happen. This is why workers’ comp insurance premiums are built into the budget. When a mishap occurs, their coverage kicks in to compensate the injured party.
So, no: you are not “causing trouble” for your employer when you file a claim, nor should future employers view you as a problem employee.
As with any legal issues, there are always a few buts. In this case, remember that statements you make during your workers’ comp case are public records. While a prospective employer cannot access those records until they have extended you a job offer, they can certainly form an opinion of you as a worker.
For example, if you took the opportunity to attack your previous employer for perceived negligence or took to personal insults, that colors future employers’ opinions of you going forward.
Tip: When working with a workers’ compensation attorney to pursue a case, remember to keep your statements strictly factual. Explain what happened without emotion or negative commentary about your employer.
Discrimination Based on Your Workers’ Compensation History
Here’s the deal: While background checks can reveal that you have filed a workers’ comp claim, employers are not allowed to access that information until after they have extended a job offer. As a South Florida law firm, we know that, under Florida law, employers can face criminal and/or civil charges if they refuse to hire a candidate because they have filed a workers’ comp claim.
According to Florida Statute 440.205, “[n]o employer shall discharge, threaten to discharge, intimidate, or coerce any employee by reason of such employee’s valid claim for compensation or attempt to claim compensation under the Workers’ Compensation Law.”
As the law states, employers don’t need to fire an employee to face legal trouble. Plaintiffs (in this case, the employee) can bring retaliation suits against their employers if their claim or injury has been used to threaten them with termination, intimidate them, or coerce them.
It can get a bit complicated here because the law does not prevent employers from terminating employees for just cause – even if they happen to be pursuing a workers’ comp claim.. In Humphrey v Sears Roebuck, for example, employee Kathleen Humphrey injured her foot while moving stock. She later called in, asking to be excused from work because of severe pain. She had a doctor’s note to verify this and that indicated she could return to “light work” on a specified date.
Humphrey asked her supervisor to fill out a workers’ compensation form, and he delayed. She did not hear from him or other supervisors despite repeated attempts to contact them. Not realizing she was on the schedule to work, Humphrey missed two days of work. She was then fired.
It was her contention that she was terminated because of her workers’ comp claim, and she pursued a retaliation case against Sears.
Ultimately, the court decided against her. Why? In some cases, the timeline of events does essentially provide evidence of retaliation. For example, Employee A is injured on June 1 and asks his employer to file a workers’ comp claim. On June 2, he’s fired for being tardy (a whole one minute late!).
This is suspect, to say the least, and likely Employee A could present a convincing case for retaliation. In Humphrey’s case, though, the court decided that Sears’s reasons for firing her were not a pretext. She did miss work without calling in to be excused.
Because the law is complex, it is critical that you consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Issues relating to retaliation are even more convoluted, and your lawyer will help you navigate it – while ensuring your rights are vigorously protected.
If you feel you have been discriminated against by a current or prospective employer based on a workers’ comp claim you have filed, contact the South Florida-based LaBovick Law Group. We have decades of experience in aggressively pursuing justice for our clients. Your ability to seek gainful work and earn a stable income is paramount; our team – your team – will fight tirelessly on your behalf.