Can I Be Fired for Making a Workers’ Comp Claim in Georgia?
If you’ve been injured on the job in Georgia, you may fear you’ll be fired for making a workers’ comp claim.
It’s one of the reasons some injured employees hesitate to file a workers’ compensation claim.
However, workers’ compensation is designed to help both the injured employee and the employer.
Under Georgia law, employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance if they have three or more employees so that, in the event of a workplace injury, employees can be compensated for medical treatment, lost wages, and permanent disability.
While it helps cover the bills for the injured employee, it also protects the employer.
If employers carry workers’ compensation insurance, they won’t be held financially responsible for the costs associated when an employee is injured on the job.
Instead, workers’ compensation insurance pays out the money.
As much as we’d like to tell you that it starts and ends there, it doesn’t.
There is a reason why people fear being fired for making a workers’ comp claim in Georgia.
The Short Answer Is Yes
The unfortunate truth is that you can be fired for making a workers’ comp claim in Georgia. Employers, though, will try to find another reason to fire you, so it won’t be so obvious.
This is because Georgia is considered an “at-will” employment state.
In “at-will” employment states, you can be fired at any time for any reason, except for being a member of a class protected from employment discrimination.
So, while you may be fired (directly or indirectly) for filing a workers’ compensation claim, there are things you can do – your workers’ compensation case is not over – it’s only just begun.
You may want to discuss your termination with an employment law attorney to see if your employer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
You can also be fired or laid off if you have a pending workers’ compensation claim or while you are on workers’ compensation.
The key difference is the employer’s reasoning for letting you go.
Basically, you can be fired for any legal reason, even during the workers’ compensation process.
For instance, if you have a back injury that prevents you from working, and your employer cannot find any light duty work, you may be let go.
Additionally, your employer may fire you as soon as the doctor releases you to resume regular work.
However, it is illegal to be fired for making a workers’ comp claim in Georgia.
The good news is that, even if you are terminated or laid off while on workers’ compensation, you will likely still receive the benefits you are entitled to, including temporary partial or total disability benefits, permanent partial or total disability benefits, and medical benefits – assuming you hired a great lawyer.
It May Be Considered Retaliation
There is always a possibility that your employer may attempt to fire you if you make a workers’ compensation claim in Georgia.
But, if your employer attempts to fire you for making a workers’ comp claim in Georgia, it will be considered retaliation.
And retaliation is illegal.
It Gets Tricky
Getting let go while you are already suffering and vulnerable is a gut punch.
Unfortunately, since Georgia has such strong “at-will” statutes, it is tricky to fight it.
One problem is that it is difficult to prove you have been fired as retaliation for making a workers’ compensation claim.
The only clear-cut way is if your employer specifically states your workers’ compensation claim as motivation for firing you.
If you are afraid of being fired for making a workers’ comp claim in Georgia, it is wise to not give your employer any cause to fire you.
Show up on time, be polite, do the job you are being paid to do, etc.
If your employer does not have cause to fire you, it will be much easier to prove this is a case of retaliation.
But, again, in the state of Georgia, you can be fired at any time for (almost) any reason.
Hence the reason you should hire an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to protect your livelihood and rightful benefits.
Know Your Rights as an Injured Employee
You have rights as an injured worker in the state of Georgia that should alleviate some of your worries about being fired for making a workers’ comp claim.
Here is the Bill of Rights for the Injured Worker as declared by the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
- If you are injured in the workplace, you may receive medical benefits, compensation for lost wages and rehabilitation benefits until you can return to work.
- Your employer must post a list of 6 doctors who provide medical care.
- Employees who are injured on the job have the right to medical benefits covering hospital stays, doctor bills, therapy or rehabilitation, and prescriptions. These medical benefits also cover travel and fuel expenses related to the on-the-job injury. If the injuries were catastrophic, these benefits will last a lifetime. Otherwise, the benefits will last up to a maximum of 400 weeks.
- You will continue to receive income if your injury renders you unable to work for more than 7 days, and your first check must be sent to you within 21 days.
- Accidents are either catastrophic (involving amputation, paralysis, severe head injury, severe burns, blindness or any other injury that disenables you from working) or non-catastrophic. If the accident is catastrophic, you will receive two-thirds of your wages until you can return to work as well as rehabilitation benefits.
- If the accident is non-catastrophic you will receive two-thirds of wages (or up to the maximum limit) until you can return for work but for no more than 400 weeks.
- If you can only return to a lower-paying job you are entitled to a weekly benefit.
- In the event of a fatality, your dependents will receive burial expenses and two-thirds of your wage, but no more than the maximum allowed by law.
- If your employer fails to provide benefits, they will pay a penalty that will be added to your payments.
It is also your right, and in your best interests, to hire an attorney to represent you in your workers’ compensation case in Georgia.
Watch this YouTube video to learn more about Workers’ Comp Benefits in Georgia.
Hiring a Workers’ Comp Attorney Is the Best Strategy
Along with fears about being fired for making a workers’ comp claim, some people are also worried about hiring an attorney.
I get it. There are some lawyers who have given the rest of us a bad name.
However, most lawyers have your best interests at heart.
And those with workers’ comp expertise have the experience and knowledge to handle even the most complicated workers’ compensation cases, such as those involving possible retaliation.
The key is hiring the right lawyer for the job.
Watch Top 5 Questions to Ask a Workers’ Comp Lawyerto learn the secrets to finding the right lawyer for your workers’ compensation case in Georgia.
Having an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer on your side not only makes the claim process easier, but it also protects you against potential retaliation from your employer.
If you’ve been injured on the job, contact us today for a free, no-strings-attached consultation.
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