Handling workers’ compensation claims can present a number of challenges, such as determining whether an injury is work-related and evaluating back-to-work accommodation requests. Another challenge arises when you consider terminating an employee who has filed a workers’ compensation claim. For example, most states’ workers’ compensation laws impose penalties, either fines, jail time, or both, for wrongful termination. While terminating an employee who has filed a workers’ compensation claim is not outright prohibited, employers must take great care to avoid a situation where it is deemed that an employee was fired because of the workers’ compensation claim.
Here are a few tips to help reduce the risk of retaliation or wrongful termination claims, and the imposition of criminal penalties, arising out of terminating an employee who has filed a workers’ compensation claim.
State workers’ compensation laws create a special set of protections for employees injured in work-related activities. One goal of these laws is to create a quick and efficient process to pay for medical benefits and to replace wages while the employee is out of work. One of many statutory employee protections is that employers may not terminate someone “because,” or in some states “solely because,” the employee filed a workers’ compensation claim. In fact, state law typically provides that it is unlawful to discipline or terminate an employee because the employee filed a claim and that an employer who does so has committed a crime.
Therefore, it would be wise to devote extra care when considering whether to terminate an employee who has filed a workers’ compensation claim.