Can I Be Fired While on Workers’ Compensation?

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Employees on workers’ compensation may have concerns about job security and wonder if they could be fired while receiving workers’ comp benefits. California law protects employees against being fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim. When an employee is injured on the job, workers’ compensation should cover medical care, temporary or permanent disability benefits, and other damages. Unfortunately, some employers do fire their injured employees inappropriately.

If your job was terminated while receiving workers’ compensation benefits, it’s crucial to consult an experienced workers’ comp attorney who will inform you of your rights and protect your best interests.


Can I Be Terminated While on Workers’ Compensation?

The fear of termination while on workers’ compensation is a common concern among injured workers. However, the answer to whether you can be fired while on workers’ compensation isn’t a simple yes or no.

While employers generally have the right to fire “at-will” employees for any lawful reason, legal protections are in place to prevent wrongful termination. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for filing workers’ compensation claims or exercising their rights under California law.


Benefits Available in a Workers’ Compensation Claim

medical bills

Under the workers’ compensation system, an injured employee does not need to prove that the injury or illness was someone else’s fault to recover benefits for an illness or injury sustained on the job. Employers are legally required to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage for their employees.

As an injured worker, you have rights and benefits that protect you during your recovery period. Understanding these rights is crucial for navigating the claims process and ensuring you receive the support you need. Some benefits available in a workers’ comp claim include:

Medical care: Necessary medical treatment for your work-related injury or illness, paid for by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.

Temporary Disability Benefits: If your injury prevents you from working while you recover, you may be eligible for temporary disability benefits to replace a portion of your lost wages.

Permanent Disability Benefits: Injured employees may pursue compensation for permanent impairments resulting from a work-related injury or illness. Permanent disability benefits may be awarded based on the severity of the impairment and its impact on the employee’s earning capacity. A disability is considered permanent once an employee has reached maximum medical improvement, which means their condition is not getting better with additional treatment

Vocational Rehabilitation: Vocational rehabilitation includes assistance with job retraining, job placement services, and vocational counseling for an employee who is unable to return to their previous job due to a work-related injury or illness.

Disfigurement: Compensation for permanent disfigurement or scarring resulting from the work-related injury or illness.

A personal injury attorney specializing in workers’ compensation cases can advocate for you and ensure you recover the benefits and protections you deserve.


Legal Protections for Employees on Workers’ Compensation

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Employees on workers’ compensation are protected by various laws and regulations to prevent unfair treatment or retaliation by their employers. These legal protections are essential safeguards for injured workers and include:

Under Labor Code section 132(a), employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for filing workers’ compensation claims or exercising their rights under workers’ compensation laws. Additionally, injured workers can return to their jobs once they are medically cleared to work again, without fear of retaliation or discrimination.

If an employer violates the legal protections afforded to employees on workers’ compensation, injured workers have the right to take legal action against their employer to seek justice and compensation for harm they suffered.


Your Employer May Not Retaliate Against You for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim

It’s essential for employees to be aware of these potential forms of retaliation and to consult a workers’ compensation lawyer if they experience unfair treatment from their employer. Examples of retaliation can include:

  • Reducing an employee’s hours or benefits as a form of retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
  • Unfairly criticizing an employee’s performance or giving them negative performance reviews in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
  • Creating a hostile work environment for employees on workers’ compensation in an attempt to pressure them to resign or deter them from pursuing their legal rights.


Can an Employee Be Terminated While They Are Receiving Workers’ Compensation?

While an employee can be terminated while they are collecting workers’ compensation, there are legal protections in place to prevent wrongful termination. Employers cannot terminate an employee solely because they are receiving workers’ compensation benefits or have filed a workers’ compensation claim.

Employers may have legitimate reasons for terminating an employee while they are on workers’ compensation, such as poor work performance, inability to do the job, or financial issues within the company. In addition, employers need to follow proper procedures and provide valid reasons for termination to avoid engaging in retaliation.

Poor Work Performance

Employers have the right to terminate employees for poor work performance, regardless of whether they are collecting workers’ compensation or not. If an employee’s performance does not meet the employer’s expectations or standards, the employer may choose to terminate the employment. However, employers must document instances of poor performance and provide employees with opportunities to improve before taking disciplinary action.

Employee Is Unable to Do Their Job

If an employee is unable to perform the essential functions of their job, even with accommodations, the employer may have grounds for termination. This could be due to the employee’s work-related injury or illness, or it could be for other reasons unrelated to workers’ compensation.

However, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act requires employers of five or more employees to provide reasonable accommodation for employees with a physical or mental disability to perform the essential functions of their jobs.

The Company Has Financial Issues

In some cases, employers may need to downsize or make workforce reductions due to financial difficulties within the company. While employees on workers’ compensation are not immune to layoffs or terminations resulting from company-wide restructuring, they cannot be singled out for termination solely because they are on workers’ compensation. Employers must demonstrate that terminations are based on legitimate business reasons, not retaliation.


How Long Can an Employee Be Out on Workers’ Compensation in California?

In California, the duration of time an employee can be out on workers’ compensation is typically 104 weeks (two years) from the date of the injury. However, this can depend on factors, including the nature and severity of the injury, the course of medical treatment, and the employee’s progress in recovery. In severe cases involving permanent injuries, the benefits typically last up to 240 weeks.


Did Your Employer Fire You on Workers’ Compensation?

If you believe you were wrongfully terminated while on workers’ compensation in California, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced workers’ comp lawyer. If your termination violated state or federal laws, such as retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim, you may have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit. A California workers’ compensation lawyer will review the details of your case, evaluate whether your termination was lawful, and advise you on the best course of action.


Contact an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney

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If you suspect your employer fired you simply for being on workers’ compensation, or you have concerns about your rights as an injured worker, it’s essential to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.

At Harbor Accident Lawyers, we are dedicated to helping injured workers recover fair compensation for their injuries and losses. Our San Diego workers’ compensation attorneys can help you gather evidence and navigate the legal process to seek justice and compensation for your wrongful termination. Call our San Diego personal injury law office today for a free consultation.