When an employee is receiving workers’ compensation benefits and is actually given leave to take time off work and recover, many people believe that their job is secure while they are away. Even though a workers’ compensation policy will never state it, most workers assume that they cannot be fired while they are on leave, or else it represents a massive employment law infraction. But is there any truth to this assumption? Or is it a modern-day tall tale?
On Leave, Laid Off
The concept that workers have job immunity while on workers’ compensation leave is, unfortunately, a common misunderstanding. While it is true that no one can be fired, terminated, or let go because they have filed a workers’ compensation claim or because they are on leave, it is not true that they cannot lose their job for other reasons. Most commonly, if a company is forced to downsize and start lay-offs, a person on workers’ compensation leave could be one of the people to go.
Understanding Employers’ Rights
It may sound pretty suspicious on the surface, but there is actually legal footing for an employer to stand on in this regard. When conducting lay-offs, an employer has to conduct employee research to determine who represents the most valuable assets to the company. People who are underperforming or those in a branch of the company that is being shuttered will likely be laid off. Simply being on workers’ compensation leave does not make an employee immune from being laid off.
Matters become questionable if there is no clear reason why an employee on workers’ comp leave was chosen to be laid off. This could indicate some sort of workplace discrimination or retaliation for becoming injured and seeking fair compensation. Imagine the scenario in which a company chooses to lay-off its entire public relations department plus one person in accounting who was on workers’ compensation leave for a repetitive stress injury. The seeming randomness of this decision would understandably raise a few eyebrows and warrant some sort of investigation as to exactly why that specific employee was laid off.
When Employers Cannot Fire Employees on Workers’ Comp Leave
To put it simply, an employer cannot fire any employee for unlawful reasons, such as discrimination or retaliation. This is known as wrongful termination. Returning to the above example, if the one employee in the accounting department was laid off in retaliation for seeking workers’ compensation benefits, that is wrongful termination. The same is true if that employee was let go due to discriminatory reasons based on his or her race, age, sex, religion, or any other protected class.
What to Do If You Were Laid Off During Your Workers’ Compensation Leave
Were you laid off while on workers’ compensation leave but not given a good reason why you were selected? It very well could be the result of discrimination against you for being unable to work.
If you believe you were wrongfully terminated, contact our Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers at The Law Offices of Nathaniel F. Hansford, LLC to learn more about your rights and how to file a claim.