Whether employers can fire someone who is receiving workers’ compensation benefits is a difficult legal question. There are lawful and unlawful reasons why someone might be terminated following a work injury and workers’ comp case. If you were fired and believe your employer might have violated your rights, reach out to a workers’ compensation attorney right away for a consultation.
The general rule is that an employer cannot fire someone because they suffered a work injury or they have filed a workers’ compensation claim. This termination could be considered retaliation, and the law prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees for seeking workers’ comp benefits they believe to be valid.
Retaliation can take many forms – not just termination. Mistreatment or any adverse employment action can be unlawful retaliation. If you filed a claim, started getting benefits, and your employer promptly fired you or took other negative action, you might have a case for retaliation.
Because California is an at-will state, employers can fire employees for any lawful reasons. As long as the termination is not in relation to the work injury or workers’ comp claim, an employer can present other reasons for firing you while you are receiving benefits. These can include:
- Standard layoffs due to budget cuts
- You will not be able to perform your work duties (even with reasonable accommodations) again because of your injuries
There is no obligation for your employer to hold your job if you cannot return to work. This means that you might lose your job if you need a long time off or have permanent disabilities that interfere with your ability to work.
If you are fired while receiving workers’ compensation, you might worry that it will affect your ability to continue collecting benefits. However, even though your employer’s insurance provides your benefits, you should be able to keep receiving them even if your employment ended. All the benefits that stem from your successful claim should continue as long as you are eligible.
For example, many people who have long-term disabilities from work injuries receive monthly workers’ comp benefits for disability or a lump-sum settlement. If you cannot return to work, and your employer ends your employment, you should still qualify for these benefits based on your disability and inability to work.
Insurance companies might try to cut off your benefits early based on your termination, but this is not a valid reason to do so. If this happens to you, seek legal help right away.
If you have been injured on the job and are facing termination, you should have your case reviewed by an attorney. They will review your case to see if you have a potential cause for discrimination or retaliation. Your lawyer will also represent you if the insurance company is trying to cut off your benefits if you have been terminated.