If you are injured at work, and then you lose your job after filing a workers’ compensation claim, will you continue to receive workers’ compensation benefits?
Can an employer (and their insurance company) avoid paying a claim by terminating your employment? What if you are unable to continue working due to your injuries and they must hire another employer to replace you?
Your employer cannot fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim, but there are other valid reasons they could give for firing you after you file your claim. Below, we’ll discuss:
- When you can and cannot be terminated after filing a workers’ compensation claim,
- What protections you have once you have filed a claim, and
- How to prove that your employer has fired you in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Will You Still Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits if You Lose Your Job?
The purpose of workers’ compensation is 1) to allow injured employees to recover and return to the workforce, and 2) to prohibit lawsuits against employers in exchange for requiring them to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
If you file a workers’ compensation claim and then lose your job, your employer may not be playing fair – do they get out of tort liability and get out of paying your medical costs?
Fortunately, you have protections under SC law – if you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, those benefits should continue to be paid even if you are laid off from your job and even if you are unable to return to work.
For example, once the payment of temporary benefits has begun, they can only be terminated in certain situations, including:
- The employee returns to work or agrees that they can return to work,
- The employer has good faith grounds to deny the claim,
- The employee’s treating physician releases the employee to work without restriction,
- The treating physician releases the employee to limited duty work and the employer offers employment with appropriate job duties,
- The employee refuses medical treatment, examination, or evaluation, or
- The employee has reached maximum medical improvement and the employer requests a hearing to terminate the benefits.
If temporary disability benefits are terminated for any other reason, the employee can request a hearing and ask the court to reinstate them. If an employer violates these rules, the employee is entitled to the temporary benefits that were withheld and a 25% penalty.
Although your benefits should continue, there are valid reasons that your employer can terminate you after a workers’ compensation claim has been filed. What are legitimate reasons for termination, and when can you sue an employer for wrongful termination?
Why Did You Lose Your Job?
Your employer cannot terminate you because you filed a worker’s compensation claim, but there are many other valid reasons for termination in SC.
SC is an at-will employment state, which means that, ordinarily, an employee can be terminated for any reason or for no reason, if the reason is not unlawful or discriminatory. This is not true once you have filed a workers’ compensation claim, however.
If you have an employment contract, it may provide additional protection by identifying legitimate reasons for termination, and, if you are terminated for some other reason or no reason at all, you may have a claim for breach of contract against your employer in addition to a wrongful termination claim under SC’s workers’ compensation laws.
Although, in most cases, your employer’s insurance company is required to continue paying legitimate workers’ compensation benefits even if you lose your job, your employer is not required to keep you as an employee if they have an otherwise valid reason to let you go.
But what is a valid reason for losing your job after you have filed a workers’ compensation claim?
If You Lose Your Job Because You Filed a Workers’ Compensation Claim…
In an at-will employment state, your employer can fire you for any lawful reason or no reason at all.
But they cannot let you go because you filed a workers’ comp claim. If you have just filed a claim, or you are receiving benefits, and your employer fires you for “no reason,” that looks an awful lot like they fired you in retaliation…
If that happens, you may have a claim for wrongful termination. SC law prohibits termination of an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim and authorizes a civil claim for lost wages and reinstatement.
Once you have filed a workers’ compensation claim, SC law limits an employer’s just causes for termination to:
- Willful and habitual tardiness or absences from work (not caused by your injury),
- Being disorderly or intoxicated at work,
- Not meeting the employer’s work standards,
- Malingering (pretending you are injured when you are not),
- Embezzlement or theft, or
- Violating written company policies that provide for termination as a remedy.
If we file suit on your behalf for wrongful termination, we will investigate your claim and gather any evidence that can prove your employer is lying about the reason for the termination, including:
- Witness testimony about your job performance,
- Performance reviews from your employer,
- Duties listed in an employee handbook,
- Disciplinary records,
- Pay raises given to you, or
- Any other documents or evidence that shows your job performance prior to your workers’ compensation claim and termination or that shows your employer’s bad faith in firing you.
In summary, if you lose your job after filing a workers’ compensation claim, with few exceptions, your employer’s insurance company must continue paying any legitimate benefits. If you are terminated because you filed a workers’ compensation claim, you are entitled to your benefits, lost wages, and reinstatement to your former position.
You may be entitled to your workers’ compensation benefits even if you lose your job. If your benefits were terminated without cause, or if your employer fired you without a legitimate reason, you may also be entitled to additional damages in a lawsuit against your employer.