Contrary to what many people believe, you can be laid off while on workers’ compensation leave. Because Georgia is an at-will state, you employer can let you go at essentially any time and for nearly any reason—as long as that reason is not in violation of your rights under state or federal employment law. This includes when you are actively collecting workers’ compensation benefits. However, you cannot be fired because you were injured at work or because you filed a workers’ compensation claim; this is known as retaliation and it is illegal.
That being said, if you are laid off while on workers’ compensation leave, that does not mean that your benefits will necessarily stop. The specific circumstances and factors involved in your situation will play a large role in whether or not you will be able to continue receiving medical and/or wage replacement benefits. Read on to learn more about what could happens with your workers’ compensation benefits after being fired or let go in Georgia, or contact the Law Offices of Nathaniel F. Hansford, LLC for a free consultation.
When Could I Be Denied Workers’ Comp Benefits After Being Fired?
If you are fired or let go while you are already collecting workers’ compensation benefits, you are generally still entitled to receive any benefits you are owed. Depending on your particular situation, this could include medical benefits, temporary total disability benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, permanent total disability benefits, and more.
However, if you are fired before you have begun receiving benefits, you could have a more difficult time collecting those benefits if you are fired for certain reasons.
Employees who are fired for the following reasons may be denied workers’ compensation benefits:
- The employee tested positively for alcohol and/or drugs shortly after the workplace accident that led to the injury
- The employee was misusing company equipment or other company items, which led to the accident and/or injury
- The employee refuses physician-approved light duty work offered by the employer after the accident/injury
- The employee was acting negligently or recklessly, and this led to the accident and/or injury
All of the above and additional factors could not only be grounds for termination but also could cause you to be denied workers’ compensation benefits.
Do I Have to Accept Light Duty Work?
After a work-related accident or injury, your employer may offer “light duty” work. If you are offered light duty work, such as answering phones or filing paperwork, and it is approved by your physician, you may have to try the offered light duty work or risk losing your workers’ compensation benefits.
Up until 2013, Georgia workers’ compensation law regarding this issue was simple: employees who were offered physician-approved light duty work would have their benefits suspended unless the employee was not able to perform light duty work and stopped within 15 days, at which point, benefits were reinstated. However, changes to the law have made it so that the workers’ compensation insurance provider can stop your benefits immediately if you do not try suitable light duty work offered by your employer and approved by your physician. If you do try to perform the light duty work for at least 8 hours but are unable to do so and stop within 15 scheduled work days, your workers’ compensation benefits should be reinstated. If you do not try to perform the light duty work at all, your benefits could end entirely. The only way to have them reinstated would be to appeal the termination of your benefits and await a judge’s ruling, which could take months.
In most cases, it is in your best interests to attempt to perform properly offered light duty work. Remember, for it to be “suitable,” light duty work must be approved by your physician.
If you need help with any aspect of your claim, including appealing early termination of benefits, contact our workers’ compensation lawyers for a free consultation: (770) 629-9321.