The answer, unfortunately, is both “yes” and “no.” If you have filed a workers’ compensation claim after an accident on the job, your employer can’t fire you after a work injury just because of that alone. Your employer can, however, fire you while you are receiving workers’ compensation payments or if you have a claim underway. But the reasons they give for letting you go cannot be based on your workers’ compensation claim — even if, in reality, that was the real reason.
Table of Contents:
- Difference Between At-Will and Contracted Employees
- Why Do Employers Fire Workers That Are On Workers Comp?
- Will I Use My Workers Comp Benefits If I Am Fired?
- What if the Doctor Says I Can Work?
- How Do I Know If I Am Being Fired Because of a Workers Comp Claim?
- What Should I Do If I Have Been Wrongly Terminated?
- How Hard is Wrongful Termination to Prove?
- How Can I Protect Myself From a Claim Related Firing?
- Should I Hire a Lawyer in This Situation?
- I Need to Speak to an Attorney Now
Your employer needs to produce other reasons for your layoff or your firing. They could cite pre-planned layoffs before you were hurt, that you have a history of poor performance reviews or that what you do on your job is too important to the company and that they must replace you immediately.
The only time you may lose workers’ compensation benefits after being fired from a job is if you willfully violated rules your workplace or employer established. However, if you suspect your employer has fired you in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim or you were fired for being injured on the job, that is against the law. If you can prove it, you can sue your employer.
If your PA employer or insurer is trying to claim this is the case, contact My Comp Lawyers to discuss your rights. Attorneys at My Comp Lawyers may be able to gather testimony and witness accounts to support your version of events and to ensure your workers’ compensation benefits are not wrongfully suspended.
What Is the Difference Between ‘At-Will’ and ‘Contracted’ Employees?
- At-will employees can be fired by their employer for any reason at any time. At the same time, at-will employees may also leave a job for any reason at any time or for no reason at all.
- Contracted employees deal with a different situation. Most contracted employees work under a union contract, although there are other situations where a worker may be a contracted employee. These contracts contain provisions which say your employer cannot fire you just because they feel like it. Your firing must be related to reasons outlined in the contract.
Most employees in Pennsylvania fall into the at-will category. This means it is much easier for employers to lay off or fire employees who are on workers’ compensation. As we noted above, filing a workers’ compensation claim cannot be used as the reason for the firing. Your boss just cannot approach you one day and say, “You filed a workers’ compensation claim and now I am firing you.” If they did, they could find themselves on the wrong end of a lawsuit.
Most employers are far too smart to do this. They will look instead for another reason to fire you so they can deny you were let go because of a workers’ comp claim.
Contracted workers have more protections, but that does not mean they cannot be fired while on workers’ compensation. For instance, a contract will often contain a provision that says if you are going to be absent from the job for certain period of time — three to six months, for example — your employer may dismiss you.
It is very important that you pay close attention to how your employer reacts when you tell them you plan to file a workers’ compensation claim. If you think this is truly the reason you are being fired or laid off, this falls under the category of all retaliation termination. Contact a Pennslyvania lawyer immediately.
Why Do Employers Fire People Who Are on Workers’ Compensation?
To be blunt, this decision most frequently comes down to financial considerations:
- Workers’ compensation claims cost companies money: Since all companies in Pennsylvania are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, actually paying out a claim hits them in the pocketbook both in the short term and the long term, as their insurance company may raise its rates.
- A lengthy absence: If your work-related injury is quite serious and you may be off the job for a lengthy period of time, this can cost your employer a lot, both in terms of money and your not being able to fulfill your responsibilities.
- Your employer needs to replace you as soon as possible: You and your employer may be friends and he or she may tell you regularly about the quality of your work. Occasionally, this may motivate your employer to hold your job for you until you can return to work. But if you are going to be off the job for many months or if you are only able to return to work with specific restrictions that will change the nature of your work, your employer may feel the need to replace you.
Will I Lose Workers’ Compensation Benefits If I Am Fired in Pennslyvania?
The answer is “it depends.” Generally speaking, workers’ compensation benefits don’t automatically end if you have been fired or laid off. The law in Pennsylvania states that your former employer’s insurance company must continue to pay for your medical costs. These benefits will continue until a doctor indicates you have recovered. In order for your wage loss benefits to stop, your employer’s insurance company must show “fault” or “bad-faith” conduct on your part in court. This is a very fact-specific area of law, and if you have been fired from your job while on benefits and would like to know whether you were fired for a reason that could stop your wage loss benefits, contact a lawyer immediately.
Also, if your employer has kept your job for you and your doctor says you’re okay to return to work, but you don’t feel well enough to return, this may give your employer a reason to fire you. It may also affect your chances of receiving future benefits. This is a serious situation and you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
How Will Being Fired After a Workman’s Comp Claim Affect My Benefits?
Even if your employer does fire you from your job because you filed a claim after a work accident, you have the right to get full workers’ compensation benefits. In Pennsylvania, your workers’ compensation coverage starts when your employment starts, so when you sustain your injury you are fully covered — regardless of what happens to your work situation after your claim. If an insurer or employer wrongfully tries to withhold or delay workers’ compensation because your employment was terminated after you reported your injury, contact My Comp Lawyers immediately for legal help.
If the Doctor Says I Can Return to Work With Restrictions, Can I Still Be Fired in PA?
If an employer has kept your job for you but your doctor says you can only return to work with restrictions, your employer can offer you a different position. Unfortunately, if you turn down their offer, your employer can terminate you and it will imperil your chances of future benefits if the negative health conditions created by your injury or disease return.
An employee returning to a job with doctor’s restrictions may still be fired by an employer for the same reasons listed above. An employer may also fire you if they are not able to fulfill any restrictions given to you by the doctor.
The silver lining is that the doctor’s restrictions make it easier to have your workers’ comp benefits restored if need be. Also remember that you are eligible for other workers’ comp benefits if your employer is unable to accommodate the doctor’s restrictions, such as vocational training to help you look for a new job.
How Do I Know If I’m Being Fired Because of a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
As we noted above, you need to pay close attention to the way your employer reacts when you tell him or her that you plan to file a workers’ comp claim. There are certain signs that signal this may be the case:
- How did your employer react? Did they try to talk you out of it? Were they angry when you said you were going ahead? Did they vaguely mention what happened to other employees who were fired after filing workers’ comp claims?
- When were you fired? Pay attention to the timing. After you informed your employer that you are filing a claim, how soon were you let go?
- What was the work situation? After filing a claim, were you the only employee laid off? Were you fired in some way or for some reason that was not normal for your workplace?
- What was the explanation given? Does your boss keep changing the explanation that he or she gives you for your termination?
- How you treated after filing your claim? Has your job suddenly become harder? Are obstacles being erected that will give your employer a reason to fire you? Are you being disciplined for vague reasons? Has your job description changed?
- Is your employer lying about why you were terminated? Has your employer lied about your injury to the Workers’ Compensation agency? Has he or she also told that lie to the insurance company to deny you a settlement?
What Should I Do If I Think I Have Been Wrongly Terminated in Pennslyvania?
Can an employer fire you for filing a workers’ comp claim? In Pennsylvania, an employer cannot fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim or for reporting a workplace injury or illness. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to prove why you were fired or laid off.
You may ask why you are being fired, but you may not always get honest answers. An employer may allege your work performance has suffered or may offer other reasons for terminating your employment. It is unlikely the company will tell you your work termination has anything to do with your workers’ compensation claim.
If you have reported a work injury and have been fired in Pennsylvania, contact My Comp Lawyers for a free consultation. Our legal team can seek out evidence that you were wrongfully terminated and can work to protect your benefits.
How Hard Is It to Prove I Was Wrongly Terminated?
It is not easy. Employers know many loopholes they can use to terminate employees that appear perfectly reasonable on the surface. In Pennsylvania, an employee who believes they have been wrongfully terminated after filing a workers’ compensation claim must prove four points:
- That they worked for the employer in question and that they are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
- That they did indeed file a workers’ comp claim.
- That after filing their claim their employer fired them or laid them off.
- That the reason for this termination was the workers’ comp claim.
As you can see, these points can be fairly tough to prove. It can be made even more difficult if you have been injured on the job or you contracted a disease. It is unlikely that you will be in any condition to file a retaliation termination lawsuit. This is one reason why many at-will employees hesitate before they file a workers’ compensation claim.
If your employer encourages you to work through an injury in the short term, it may be possible to do so. But in many cases, this will lead to long-term health concerns.
If you need to file a workers’ comp claim, you should do it — and hire a lawyer to help you to make sure you are treated fairly.
How Can I Protect Myself From Being Fired for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
An important way to protect yourself is to report any work injuries and incidents immediately and to get a medical evaluation of your condition. If you are injured at work and don’t report the injury, you may lose your job if your unreported injury causes your work performance to suffer. If you properly report the injury and file a claim, you may get benefits and you may have more grounds for filing a workers’ compensation retaliation suit against your employer if you are wrongfully terminated after your injury.
Is It a Good Idea to Hire a Workers Compensation Lawyer?
Absolutely. If you been wrongfully terminated, a lawyer will help you prepare a lawsuit that will protect your rights and your benefits. Experienced lawyers know how to repair and file the paperwork needed in these cases. This will go a long way towards ensuring a successful result.
It is important to remember that most states stipulate that you have to file a retaliation termination lawsuit against the former employer within a very short period of time. This is not easy to do at the best times and is even more difficult when you are dealing with an injury or a disease. Many lawyers, like those at My Comp Lawyers, work for lower fees on workers’ compensation cases.
You will need to prove a causal link between your firing and your workers’ compensation claim. There are precedents for these situations which could help your case. In 1998, in the case of Shick v. Shirey, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania decided a worker could pursue a claim against an employer if that employer fired a worker for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Other employees have won after being fired after a workers compensation claim was filed.
Let Our Experienced Team of Pennslyvania Workers Compensation Lawyers Help You
When you are injured or not feeling well, preparing a workers’ comp claim or a retaliation termination lawsuit is no walk in the park. Remember that your employer’s insurance company deals with these claims on a regular basis and they know all the tricks they can use to deny you a settlement or argue that you were not wrongfully terminated.
Our experienced and knowledgeable team at My Comp Lawyers will work with you to determine your best course of action. If you were wrongfully fired or laid off, you can count on us to help you fight for the justice and the benefits you deserve. For us, you’re not just another client — you are a person who needs our help. We understand how wrongful termination impacts you and your family, both emotionally and financially. We know you need to get the situation resolved as soon as possible.
If you have any questions about the workers’ comp benefits you are receiving or if you feel you have been wrongfully terminated, please take advantage of our free consultation where we determine how we can help resolve your situation. Call us at 717-400-1000. You can also reach out to us at any time of the day or night.
Joe D’Amico has more than 20 years of experience fighting for injured workers. He is Certified as an Expert in Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Joe is one of the very few Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys who have obtained a recovery in excess of $1.5 million for an injured worker.
Reviewed by Joe D’Amico.