I Filed for Workers’ Comp in Georgia and Got Fired. What Can I Do?
You filed for workers’ comp. However, many people hesitate to admit they were injured on the job out of fear that they may be fired for workers’ comp claims.
This is a mistake for a few reasons.
First, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if you were injured on the job.
Second, you need the benefits to help cover the costs of medical care and lost income.
Third, you are protected from retaliation.
But, as much as I’d like to tell you that this can’t or won’t happen, I can’t make you that promise.
There are some employers who are not the nicest people in the world. They are sneaky and try to find loopholes that will allow them to fire people for workers’ comp claims.
If you have recently been injured on the job and believe your employer may fire you as a result of your workers’ comp claim, read on to learn more about what to do.
Can I Be Fired for Making a Workers’ Comp Claim in Georgia?
Georgia is considered an “at-will” employment state.
In “at-will” employment states, you can be fired at any time for any reason, except if you were fired for being a member of a class protected from employment discrimination.
Essentially, in the state of Georgia, you can be fired for what you wear, your tone of voice, missing too much work, and so on.
You can also be fired or laid off if you have a pending workers’ compensation claim or while you are on workers’ compensation.
The distinguishing feature is the employer’s reasoning for letting you go.
For instance, if you have a back injury that prevents you from performing your job and your employer does not have any light duty work for you to do, you may be laid off.
If you continually miss work due to a work injury, your boss may fire you for missing work.
Additionally, your employer may wait and fire you once the doctor releases you to resume regular work.
However, it is illegal to be fired for making a workers’ comp claim in Georgia.
In other words, if you file a claim and then your boss fires you for making a claim, this is illegal.
But, if your boss accepts the claim but fires you for a different reason, this is legal.
You have to prove you have been fired as retaliation for making a workers’ compensation claim, but it has to be very clear that this is the only reason you’ve been fired.
Will My Benefits End?
If you have already started the workers’ compensation process and are receiving benefits, your benefits, including temporary partial or total disability benefits, or permanent partial disability benefits, and/or medical benefits, should continue.
If your work-related injury has limited your ability to work, you may still receive workers’ compensation income benefits, as long as you can prove your injury is what is keeping you from working or from making as much money as before your accident.
Let’s say that you can’t hold a job because you continually have back pain or need to attend doctors’ appointments. This type of work-related injury may result in continued workers’ compensation for income loss.
What May Put My Benefits in Jeopardy?
It’s important to understand that workers’ compensation insurance adjusters do not want to pay out money.
Therefore, they regularly investigate workers’ compensation claims – even the most mundane ones.
If you have been fired during the workers’ compensation process, they will try to use this against you and may offer a lowball settlement. They will investigate to make sure the medical care and income benefits you receive are necessary.
If they suspect you have been fired for something unrelated to your work injury, such as harassment, insubordination, or misconduct, they will try to cut off benefits or just generally use this against you.
Could It Be Retaliation?
Being fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim is considered retaliation and is illegal.
How do you know if what your boss did is retaliation?
There are a few ways to tell:
- Your boss tells you that directly, which likely will not happen.
- If your boss fires you within a few days of your filing the claim, this is a red flag.
- If your employer starts treating you differently or acting differently toward you in the days after you make a claim, it may be retaliation.
- If your employer doesn’t give you a clear reason for firing you, it may be retaliation.
- If your employer gives different reasons why you were fired, this is another red flag.
Ultimately, it is difficult to prove retaliation as the reason for being fired for workers’ comp without the help of an attorney.
A workers’ comp lawyer will work to find evidence that shows:
- The employee was eligible for workers’ compensation when they were fired.
- The employee filed a workers’ compensation claim and started the process.
- The employer must have fired or threatened to fire the injured worker.
- The employer must have fired the employee in response to the worker filing a workers’ comp claim.
Do Not Give Your Employer Any Reason to Fire You
A smart employer will not openly admit he is firing you because you filed a workers’ compensation claim.
Instead, they will wait until your doctor has released you back to work full duty to fire you.
When you return to work, be a model employee.
- Communicate with your employer. Make sure your employer is aware of your doctor’s recommendations and your desire to work.
- Show up on time. People frequently get fired for tardiness.
- Don’t skip work. If you are released to light duty or full duty, go to work ONLY if you have spoken to your attorney and they have said it is ok. Only miss when you have reason (such as pain from your injury or a doctor’s appointment).
- Act respectfully. Don’t give your boss reason to fire you for insubordination.
- Perform your duties satisfactorily within your abilities. Do not re-injure yourself but try your best to do the assigned work.
- Follow all workplace rules. If you break workplace rules, such as working while under the influence, not only may you be fired, but you may also lose your workers’ compensation benefits.
If you are fired, and you have been a model employee, you should have a case.
The Upside of Getting Fired
It is frustrating and overwhelming if you think your employer may fire you for workers’ comp claims.
It’s not all bad news.
Even if you hire an attorney to fight for workers’ compensation benefits and prove retaliation, you likely won’t get your job back.
But is that really a bad thing?
If your employer fires you for filing a workers’ comp claim, this probably isn’t someone you want to work for. You can look forward to finding a better, more understanding employer.
And remember, if you are terminated or laid off while receiving workers’ compensation income benefits, you will likely still receive the benefits you are entitled to, and they will have to keep paying you until you are released to full duty.
Hire An Attorney to Fight for You
If you suspect you have been fired for pursuing a workers’ comp claim, you need to hire an attorney.
As we’ve discussed, it is extremely difficult to prove retaliation in the state of Georgia.
Legally, as an “at-will” state, employers can fire employees for almost any reason.
But one of the few reasons they cannot fire an employee is for filing a workers’ comp claim.
Employers know they cannot fire an employee for this reason, so they will use another excuse to terminate employment.
Hence the reason you need to work with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
Your attorney will help you prove you were retaliated against when you were already vulnerable.
If you’ve been injured on the job, contact us today for a free, no-strings-attached consultation.
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