Getting hurt is bad enough. No one wants to suffer a serious injury. It interferes with your ability to work and take care of yourself and those your care for.
It is even worse when your employer fires you after a workers compensation injury. Having to focus on recovering from your injury while worrying about having a job can be very stressful.
Understanding what can happen if you get fired after a workers compensation injury can help relieve some of that stress. You can handle things better if you know what to expect. So, I wrote this article to give you some information that will help you understand the different things that can happen if your employer fires you after you get hurt at work.
Will my employer fire me after I get hurt at work?
Maybe. The important thing for you to understand is that it could happen and to understand when you are at most risk of it.
Georgia is an employment at will state. That means that most employees have an employment at will relationship with their employers. This means that you can generally quit your job whenever you want to, but it also means that your employer can generally fire you whenever they want to.
One of the common ways to describe employment at will is by saying that your employer can fire you for:
- A good reason,
- A bad reason, or
- No reason at all
In other words, your employer does not have to fire you for cause. They can just decide they are going to fire you. As long as it is not a legally prohibited reason, you may not have any particular remedy over them terminating your employment.
There are certain legally prohibited reasons for termination. A few of them are listed below, but some of these legal prohibitions only apply to employers of certain size:
- National Origin
There are other legally prohibited reasons as well. If you think your employer has wrongfully terminated you, you should get in touch with an attorney because there are deadlines for taking action.
Can my employer fire me while I have an open workers compensation case?
Yes. An open workers compensation case does not prevent your employer from firing you. I have seen many situation where employers have terminated someone while their workers compensation case is open.
What happens if my employer fires me after I start receiving workers compensation benefits?
Since an employer can fire you while your workers compensation case is open, you need to know what will happen if this does occur. What happens depends on what type of workers compensation benefits you are receiving at the time you are fired.
If you are receiving benefits for lost wages because you are out of work, getting fired does not generally affect your right to continue receiving those benefits. The basic reason for this is that you are still out of work as a result of your workers compensation injury. So, the injury is causing you to lose money.
Unfortunately, the situation is much different if you are not receiving lost wage benefits for being out of work. In this situation, getting fired puts you out of work with no money coming in.
This can be very difficult because you are trying to find a new job while you still have limitations from your injury. Fortunately, there are some ways to get your workers compensation wage loss benefits started if your injury prevents you from getting a new job. But, you usually have to prove this to a judge and there are special rules you have to follow. A workers compensation attorney can be very helpful if you find yourself in this situation.
Does getting fired end my workers compensation case?
No. Getting fired does not end your workers compensation case. As I mentioned in the paragraph above, it does often affect what type of benefits you can receive.
Also, you need to be aware that there are deadlines that can prevent you from getting future workers compensation benefits. One of these deadlines runs from the time that you last received workers compensation benefits for being out of work.
It is very important to be aware of these deadlines. If you miss one of them, you can lose your rights to receive particular workers compensation benefits. Certain deadlines can also just end your workers compensation case.
Will I get fired if I hire a workers compensation attorney?
If you worry about this, you are not alone. Many people ask me this question.
While Georgia law technically does not prevent your employer from firing you because you hired an attorney, I would be very surprised to see any employer do it. I can also tell you this – I have never seen it happen.
There are several reasons that I would be surprised to see it happen:
- It would not look good to a workers compensation judge
- If you have already hired a workers compensation attorney when you get fired, you are going to be better able to pursue getting the benefits you should receive
- People who have hired an attorney in their workers compensation case are going to be more informed about whether they will be able to pursue a separate case over a wrongful termination
It is much better for your workers compensation case if you hire an attorney before you are fired. This is because an attorney can advise you of the risks associated with being fired and hopefully help you avoid situations where you will get fired.
Hiring an attorney before getting fired also usually saves you money because of how contingency fee contracts work in a workers compensation case. So, if you have concerns about getting fired, I would definitely recommend setting up a free consultation.
If your employer already fired you after you got hurt at work, I am sorry that you find yourself in that situation. But, the good news is that it is not too late to find out what can be done to help (and it does not cost anything to find that out).