Can I Be Laid Off While On Workers' Comp Leave?

If you have been injured on the job, the state of Georgia offers several protections for those who wish to take advantage of the state’s workers’ compensation system. When you file a workers’ comp claim with your employer, your employer is forbidden from firing you, docking you pay, harassing you, demoting you, or otherwise harming your professional standing out of retaliation. However, these protections don’t provide you with special treatment, and you could still find your employment impacted for different reasons.

Workers Comp Doesn’t Grant Special Treatment

Most workers know they are protected from being fired or discriminated against due to filing a workers’ comp claim. However, your employer also retains the right to run their business exactly as they see fit. This means you could potentially still have your hours reduced or even be laid off while you’re away. Whether or not their actions are legal depends on your employer’s reasons for this decision: was it out of retaliation or was it due to a business decision.

To understand how this works, let’s look at a fairly simple example. Say you work in a restaurant and slip on water in the kitchen and injure your leg. The doctor tells you to take two weeks off in order to heal, but while you’re healing, the restaurant contacts you and lets you know you’re being laid off. This might seem illegal, but let’s dig a little bit deeper.

If you do some investigating and find out that half of the staff in your role are also being laid off because the business has been struggling to stay profitable in current operating conditions, then the business is at liberty to lay you off. In this instance, your layoff was due to a legitimate business decision, and therefore, they have the right to make that decision because it was not done directly to penalize you for filing a workers’ comp claim.

Now, let’s say the circumstances were different. Upon further investigating you find out that you’re the only person who works at your restaurant who has been laid off, no substantial changes are being made, and in fact you’ve already been replaced by a different employee who was promoted. In this instance, you could reasonably imagine that you weren’t laid off, you were fired, and if the company cannot give you an acceptable reason why they have decided to fire you, then you could potentially file a discrimination lawsuit against them for wrongful termination.

Have you recently been laid off, fired, or faced other forms of discrimination after filing a workers’ compensation claim? Call an Atlanta workers’ comp lawyer from The Law Offices of Nathaniel F. Hansford, LLC today at (770) 741-2825 to request a case evaluation and start reviewing your options.