Nobody wants to suffer a work injury, even if they know in advance that the workers’ compensation system will fully compensate them for it. The real danger, especially for workers with little savings, is losing your job before you have even recovered from a work-related injury. You need to know the law in this area, because a mistake could put you in a very difficult position.
Can You Lose Your Job While on Workers Comp?
The answer to the question, Can you lose your job while on workers comp? is yes, but consequences will ensue for both you and your employer. These consequences vary, from favorable to unfavorable, depending on exactly how you lose your job and why. Your options are very different depending on whether you quit voluntarily or whether your employer fired you or laid you off.
Quitting Your Job Voluntarily
You should typically not quit your job while receiving temporary workers’ compensation benefits. If you do, you may lose some of your benefits. While you would continue to receive compensation for your medical care, quitting is likely to affect your right to temporary income replacement benefits.
Therefore, it is generally advisable to stay with your current job until your temporary disability benefits run out. Nevertheless, your workers’ compensation attorney can provide specific advice for your individual circumstances.
Quitting for Good Cause
Of course, you might have good reasons for wanting to quit. You might quit for valid but independent reasons (racial discrimination, for example), or you might want to quit because your employer harassed you over your workers’ compensation claim.
Regardless of the reason, however, consult with an attorney before quitting while receiving income benefits.
Exception: Quitting in Response to Permanent Total Disability
If you are receiving permanent total, rather than temporary benefits, you can quit your job without risking your benefits. In fact, under these circumstances continuing to work would cast doubt upon your eligibility for total disability benefits.
Temporary workers’ compensation benefits are supposed to tide you over until you are healthy enough to return to your job. The system doesn’t work very well, however, if you have no job to go back to once you regain your health.
If Your Employer Fired You
Can your employer fire you after you suffer a work injury or while you are receiving temporary workers’ compensation benefits? Yes, as long as the reasons for firing you had nothing to do with your workers’ compensation claim.
Your employer can still fire you for general incompetence, absenteeism, a reduction in force, or other legal reasons.
Your employer cannot legally fire you for simply suffering an injury or for filing a workers’ compensation claim. That is known as retaliatory discharge, and you can file a lawsuit over it.
One gray area is when your employer fires you for violating a safety rule, which violation led to the accident for which you are claiming compensation. Strictly speaking, such a discharge is not illegal, but it is likely to trigger greater scrutiny by courts and regulatory authorities.
If Your Employer Laid You Off
Employers typically do not like workers’ compensation claims because they cost the company money. Nevertheless, it is generally illegal to discharge you in retaliation for filing a temporary workers’ compensation claim.
One loophole in this prohibition, however, is laying you off for reasons that have nothing to do with your workers’ compensation claim. Your employer can lay you off as long as they can demonstrate legitimate business reasons for doing so.
Retaliatory discharge disguised as an innocent layoff
Might an employer “lay off” an employer as a form of disguised retaliatory discharge? One red flag is when, strangely enough, only your position is being downsized (or your position plus other positions held by employees who filed workers’ comp claims).
This happens all too often, unfortunately一especially if the employee does not have a workers’ compensation lawyer. You can fight back, however, if this happens, by exposing the real reasons for your “layoff.”
Can Your Employer Fire You for Hiring a Workers’ Comp Lawyer?
The short answer to this question is no. Your employer cannot legally fire you for hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer. Of course, the same caveat that was mentioned above applies here as well. Your employer might try to get away with firing you for hiring a lawyer, if they can disguise the true reasons for it.
That is why it is important for you to hire a reputable attorney with a good track record. Once you do this, your employer is less likely to fire you than if you didn’t hire a lawyer. That’s because a good lawyer will see right through this ruse and will know just how to expose your employer for retaliatory discharge.
Time Matters! Contact Us Today
The sooner after your discharge that you retain a lawyer, the better chance you will have for a favorable resolution. If your employer discharged you after you filed a workers’ compensation claim, take action. Contact Minnesota workers’ compensation law firm Arechigo & Stokka immediately.
We understand the Minnesota criminal justice system backward and forward. In fact, we enjoy working relationships with many lawyers and judges. Contact us online or call us at 651-222-6603 for a free initial consultation on your case.
Josh has been representing injured workers for over 10 years. Josh was born and raised in Fargo, North Dakota, and attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminology. Mr. Stokka alson received his law degree from the Hamline University School of Law. During law school, Josh clerked at a Minnesota law firm specializing in personal injury and workers’ compensation. Prior to practicing in the area of workers’ compensation, Josh clerked for a judge in the 7th Judicial District in Minnesota. This valuable experience gave him insight into how judges think, do their jobs behind the scene, and how to frame a case in order to obtain a favorable result. Now, he focuses 100% of his practice on defending injured workers in Minnesota.