The situation is not a happy one. You sustained an injury while working. Maybe it was an accident, or maybe it was negligence on behalf of your employer in maintaining an unsafe working environment. Whatever the case, if you’ve been fired after being injured on the job, it’s important to know your rights.
Fired for being injured on the job?
Find out how to protect yourself with our wrongful termination guide.
When Is It Illegal to Fire an Injured Worker?
If you’re unable to do your job because of an injury (or disability), your employer must make reasonable accommodations for all employees. They cannot fire you because you can’t lift boxes, for instance, if they made an accommodation for another employee who was not injured on the job and suffered from an injury or disability such that the other employee could not perform certain tasks associated with the job, such as lifting a box.
Workers’ Compensation: Who’s Protected When?
It is also illegal to fire you in retaliation for filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. According to Florida Statutes Section 440.205 (coercion of employees), firing someone for filing a workers’ compensation claim is considered “retaliation,” and it is illegal. But we still see it often. Do not let a fear of retaliation keep you from filing a legitimate claim for benefits.
However, it’s important to know that if you are off of work because of an injury covered by workers’ compensation, even under a doctor’s order, your job is not protected. Your employer does not need to hold your job open until you return. You may be terminated if you cannot perform the job. But if you are out due to injury, and you and your employer qualify, you could be entitled to leave and your job and right to return to work may be protected under the Family & Medical Leave Act.
The nuances of these protections can be difficult to understand. That’s why it’s important to seek the advice of a workers’ compensation and retaliation attorney. Don’t try to decide if you have a case or not on your own. Consult someone who can evaluate all aspects of your termination.
How Can I Prove I Was Fired Due to Retaliation?
For a workers’ compensation retaliation case in Florida, an employee must prove three things:
- An adverse employment action occurred. Often this is firing, but it can also be a demotion or lack of opportunity.
- The existence of a statutorily protected expression (in this case filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits or attempting to file a claim).
- A connection between the protected expression and the adverse employment action.
When someone comes to us about a workers’ compensation retaliation claim, the first point has almost always taken place. Usually, it’s the firing or demotion that causes people to seek out our help. However, the second and third point must be provable as well.
For instance, if you did not report a workplace injury and just went online to research how to file a workers’ compensation claim, and your manager called you into her office the moment you exited out of the site, it would be difficult to prove your termination occurred because she knew about your claim. Difficult, but not impossible.
If you had told others about the injury, or other employees witnessed the injury, you may still be able to prove you were retaliated against if the fact of the workplace injury got back to her. It would be reasonable to anticipate you would be filing a claim once she has knowledge of the injury. Even if you do not actually file a claim but take steps to do so, or the employer prevents you from filing the claim, you may be able to establish retaliation.
Proving retaliation based on a workers’ compensation claim requires knowledge of the law and applicable court rulings. It’s not something you want to navigate on your own.
At Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., we’ve created a Wrongful Termination ebook, and it’s available to you for free. It contains everything you need to know about the types of wrongful termination, filing deadlines, how to prove you’ve been wrongfully terminated, and the time within which you must file a claim.
Download it today (again, it’s free) and call us and schedule your free consultation. Don’t let your work injury become a bigger issue than it already is. Know your rights.