No, your employer cannot fire you simply because you have been injured at work and filed a workers’ compensation claim. Any employer who uses retaliatory action such as terminating you from your job due to an injury sustained on the job could be violating a North Carolina law known as the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act, also known as “REDA”. If an employer violates this law by terminating you because of your injury on the job, you should contact a workers’ compensation attorney immediately. In this event, you can bring a court action against the employer and seek damages from the employer. The court may order you to be reinstated to your old position and order that you be compensated for your for lost wages, benefits, and seniority. Be extra careful, there is a short time limit to file this type of claim against your employer.
Generally, an employer would not be so blatant as to fire you because you were injured on the job and filed a workers’ compensation claim. The employer will usually try to find a way to terminate you for tardiness, poor work performance, or a number of other reasons that aren’t related to the injury. However, we know that this is usually just a disguised punishment for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
A common method some employers use is to force you to resign. An example of this is for the employer to assign you a terrible job while you recover from your injury. For example, you have a foot injury that will take several weeks for you to recover. Your employer may assign you the job of sitting on a stool all day long and count persons walking in the door. Most persons cannot sit on a stool for eight hours each day for several weeks. The employer would hope that you would become so mad that you would just quit the job. That’s just what they wanted you to do. Now they can claim you resigned from the job and you are unlikely to receive the “full” benefits that you would be entitled to if you had not resigned.
Also you must attempt to perform the job assigned to you based upon your injury and work restrictions when you return to work. For example, the workers’ compensation doctor may limit you to lifting no more than 10 pounds. If your employer assigns you a job lifting 7 lbs, you must attempt to do the job, or you could be terminated for “good cause”. However, if your employer assigns you a job lifting 80 lbs bags of concrete, you can and should refuse to do the job based upon your medical restrictions.
In conclusion, be very careful when you return to work from your injury. Many employers are looking for an excuse to terminate your employment because they do not believe you can perform the job because of your present or passed injury. However, it is against the law for an employer to terminate or fire you from your job because you filed a workers’ compensation claim.
If you have been injured at work contact our workers compensation lawyers today to set up a free consolation to discuss your injury and work situation.