What to Do if You Are Fired on Workers’ Compensation Medical Leave
It is difficult to concentrate on recovering from a job-related injury or illness if you believe your job is in jeopardy. Workers’ compensation provides insurance benefits if you are injured or get sick on the job.
New York law mandates that most employers with one or more employees must carry workers’ compensation insurance. This protects the employer from liability for on-the-job injuries or illness. While most employers choose an insurance carrier or a policy through the New York State Insurance Fund, others may choose to self-insure.
Sometimes, employees will use their health insurance for doctor’s visits and use sick days if they need time off work instead of filing a workers’ compensation claim. They do this because they fear they might lose their job.
Can I Be Fired While on Workers’ Compensation Medical Leave?
The short answer to this question is “yes and no.” Legally, an employer cannot fire you because you filed a worker’s compensation claim. However, some employers may choose to take advantage of the fact you’re on medical leave and seek another reason to terminate your employment.
Employees are either “at will” or “contract” employees. This determines your benefits and your legal rights. An “at will” employee can be terminated based on poor work performance, company restructuring, layoffs because of financial issues, or other legal conditions.
However, a workers’ compensation claim is not a reason your employer can use to fire you legally. Contract employees (not the same as independent contractors) have different legal rights. However, the employer is still not legally able to terminate your employment in retaliation for filing a claim.
Employers rarely make the mistake of telling the employee that the workers’ compensation claim was the reason they are being terminated. If they did, an employment discrimination lawsuit would result. Instead, an employer may use legally acceptable reasons.
These include company restructuring, performance issues, bad attitude, or excessive absences. If the employer can prove these conditions have been met, there is no law preventing them from firing you.
In New York, workers’ compensation is a no-fault system that’s designed to help replace your wages and help pay for medical expenses for work-related injuries or illnesses. Benefits include health care related to the injury, two-thirds of your average weekly wage, and travel expenses to your healthcare appointments.
Documentation Is Key to Defending Your Rights
The first thing you should do if you were fired while on medical leave for a work-related injury and believe you were fired in retaliation for filing a claim is call a Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C. attorney. The next thing you should do is prepare to back up your position that the employer fired you in retaliation.
Your employer must prove you performed the actions that led to your firing for the termination to be legal. If your employer has terminated you while on medical leave for a workers’ compensation claim or if you believe your employer might fire you in the future, you must collect the necessary documentation.
You need all the evidence related to your illness or injury as it happened in your employment. You also need performance reviews, emails, or documents supporting employment discrimination.
If you are fired when you’re receiving treatment under a workers’ compensation claim, be suspicious of employment discrimination. Unless the employer is laying off many people at the same time, they may be looking for a way to terminate your employment.
Document all the communication between you and your employer about the termination. Any emails, records of phone calls, and written communication should be collected in one place. Talk with your coworkers to determine whether they have information that supports your claim.
The business opens itself to legal action if they terminate you illegally. Consequences can include payment for lost wages and reimbursement of expenses. It is important to note that even if you are terminated, your workers’ compensation benefits should continue to cover your costs.
While you’re on workers’ compensation medical leave, your doctor may allow you to go back to work with restrictions. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers with 15 or more employees must make a reasonable effort to accommodate any work restrictions.
Some employees are also entitled to a 12-week job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If you qualify for FMLA and get terminated, you might have legal recourse to claim damages from your employer or file for reinstatement.
Call Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C. For Help if You Were Terminated While on Workers’ Comp Medical Leave
You should not hesitate to claim the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve. These benefits are intended to protect you if you’ve been injured or gotten ill on the job. The New York workers’ compensation attorneys of Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C. have years of experience they will use to help you.
Our compassionate legal team understands how difficult it is to recover physically, emotionally, and financially from a job-related accident or illness. Call us today at 516-496-0400 for your confidential case evaluation.