workers comp and job protection


    Updated on 06/17/2024

    If you are injured on the job and have to take time off to recover, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Disease Act ensures that you receive compensation for your lost time and medical expenses, but it does not protect your job.

    If you feel that your employment was wrongfully terminated due to a workers’ compensation claim, reach out to a workers’ comp attorney to discuss your concerns. 

    What Does the Workers’ Compensation Act Require My Employer to Cover?

    Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act was designed to protect both employees and employers. The state requires employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance, which provides several types of benefits, including:

    Compensation for lost wages

    Medical care for the work injury

    Specific loss benefits, such as permanent injury or disfigurement

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    The Act does not require your employer to protect your job or job title or continue paying for your health insurance or other benefits when you are off work due to a work injury. 

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    Why Won’t Pennsylvania Law Protect My Job?

    Pennsylvania is an “at-will” employment state unless your employment contract says otherwise. This means your employer can end your employment with or without cause whenever they want. At-will employment also means you have the freedom to resign at any time and for any reason. However, do not resign before consulting an attorney because a resignation could have a disastrous impact on your amount or right to workers’ comp benefits.

    An employer does not have to hold your job while you’re on workers’ compensation. If your company needs to hire someone to do the job in your place, it can replace you and offer you a suitable replacement job. You won’t receive any enhanced worker protection laws when you receive workers’ compensation or are out of the job due to injury. You’ll remain an at-will employee.

    Learn More About Returning to Work After Your Injury

    Can My Employer Fire Me for Filing for Workers’ Comp? 

    An at-will employee can be fired at any time and for any reason except one that violates the person’s civil rights. While you can be fired or laid off while you’re collecting workers’ compensation, you can’t be fired because you filed for workers’ compensation. That’s a critical distinction and makes a difference in your case.

    Your employer cannot fire you for:

    Becoming injured on the job.

    Reporting a job-related injury or illness.

    Notifying authorities of workplace safety violations.

    Taking or requesting medical leave.

    Filing a workers’ compensation claim.

    Attempting to negotiate workers’ comp benefits. 

    A Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling held that employees must be able to pursue their legal workers’ compensation rights without being subject to reprisal. Otherwise, the fear of firing would keep employees from filing claims for just compensation, and employers would be unfettered from their legal responsibilities. 

    Simply put, your employer cannot fire you for filing workers’ comp — this action would be a form of illegal retaliation.

    What Is Illegal Retaliation? 

    Employer retaliation is harm to an employee for participating in a legally protected activity. Harm could include firing you for filing a workers’ compensation claim.

    Other forms of employer retaliation could include:

    Denied promotions

    Denied bonuses


    A hostile work environment

    Unjustified employee reviews

    Unfair negative job references

    Increased surveillance

    If you have been fired and suspect illegal retaliation, you should consult with an attorney. While workers’ comp job protection in Pennsylvania doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have a job when you return from your injury, it does protect you from being fired due to the injury. An experienced lawyer can assist you with determining whether your employer acted within the law.

    Is My Employer Allowed to Fire Me When on Workers’ Compensation?

    As long as your employer did not fire you because of your workers’ comp claim, they are within their rights to terminate your employment even if you are receiving benefits. Again, no law requires them to hold your position open if you are unable to work.

    Reasons why your employer may end your employment while you are on workers’ compensation include:

    They already planned to fire you due to poor job performance.

    They need someone to perform the essential functions of your job.

    They are restructuring the company.

    The business is experiencing financial difficulties unrelated to your job performance.

    How Do I Find Out if My Employer Will Protect My Job and Benefits?

    If you do not have one, you should ask your employer for a copy of an Employee Handbook. You can also meet with your supervisors to discuss their policy regarding whether your specific employer voluntarily agrees to continue benefits for injured workers and how they handle keeping any job positions open for a while.

    Again, employers are not required to do this, but many employers do voluntarily agree to maintain benefits or a job position for some period of time.

    Does the Family Medical Leave Act Protect My Job While I Am Healing From a Work Injury?

    If you want your pre-injury job position to be held open, you may be able to apply for Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protection by requesting and filing an FMLA application with your Human Resources or similar department. If approved, FMLA may protect your right to re-employment for a limited time only.

    The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 is a United States federal law that provides job protection and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons. This includes managing a job-related illness or health condition. Under FMLA, certain employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave, albeit unpaid. It also requires that group health benefits be maintained during the leave.

    FMLA only applies under the following conditions:

    You’ve worked for the same employer for at least 12 months.

    You worked 1,250 hours the previous year.

    Your employer has at least 50 employees.

    Are There Laws to Protect My Employee Medical Benefits?

    The Commonwealth does not have a law protecting health insurance benefits while you recover from your injury. There are a few exceptions to this rule:

    An employment contract stipulates your employer must continue to pay health insurance if a worker becomes injured on the job. In this case, your employer must pay your premiums while you recover on workers’ compensation.

    You apply to use up to 12 weeks of Family Medical Leave Act time, as outlined above, during your workers’ comp period. Under the Act, you will continue to receive health insurance benefits throughout your leave period.

    You receive “continuation coverage” under the COBRA law (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). COBRA may let you keep your employer group health plan coverage for a limited time after your employment ends or after you would otherwise lose coverage. 

    What About Health Insurance Premiums While I’m On Workers’ Comp?

    If you are able to retain your employer-provided health insurance, and if you contributed to your premiums before you got hurt, you will still have to pay while you’re on workers’ comp. If you are approved for FMLA, you may be charged for your health insurance.

    Does Workers’ Comp Protect Other Benefits I Received With My Job?

    Your job is not protected, and neither are your health benefits. Your other benefits may not be protected either, such as your accrued vacation time or employer matching for your 401(K).

    Your employee handbook or human resources department may explain what happens in these situations. Just keep in mind that when a company is not obligated to pay you, it often won’t. Don’t count on getting any benefits that you have not checked on ahead of time. Otherwise, you could be in the vulnerable position of believing you will get something that doesn’t arrive.

    Your best approach would be to discuss your concerns with an attorney and see what you can learn. Our office has ample experience with these types of questions, and we can offer accurate guidance on a case-by-case basis.

    Can I Get Social Security or Unemployment Benefits While On Workers’ Comp?

    You should consult with an attorney to determine your eligibility for additional benefits. They can discuss the answer with you based on the specifics of your case. In some situations, you may be eligible to receive Social Security and/or unemployment with workers’ comp. 

    Please be aware that many factors could affect your eligibility. Sometimes, your workers’ comp may be decreased if you collect these benefits. Or, your Social Security or unemployment payments may be reduced.

    Learn More About Job Protection for Your Workers’ Compensation Case

    It’s natural to wonder about the status of your employment after you’ve been injured. Do you still have questions about your job and whether it will be there for you after your injury has healed? If so, the lawyers at Frommer D’Amico can help.

    We only take workers’ compensation cases and represent the employee, never the employer. Our depth of knowledge and experience has assisted many hard-working people just like you. We offer low fees and will come to your home to meet with you. Our certified experts in workers’ compensation are ready to fight for you and provide personalized attention to every case.

    Let us answer your questions and get you the best outcome in your case. Contact us today for a free initial consultation. You can reach out online or give us a call at 717-400-1405.

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      Please ensure your contact information is correct so our attorneys can help you get the compensation you deserve!

      Apologies, but we practice law in Pennsylvania only. Since you were not injured in Pennsylvania, we cannot offer advice and you should contact an attorney in your State. Best wishes.


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