Can Your Employer Fire You for Filing a Workers' Compensation Claim?
There are no protections in place that require employers to keep an injured workers' position open while he or she recovers from a work-related injury. That said, there are protections in place that prohibit employers from firing injured parties simply because they filed a workers' compensation claim. If you suspect that your employer fired you because you exercised your rights to benefits, you may have a tough time proving your employer's motivation. However, with the right Georgia workers' compensation attorney on your side, you may be able to prevail in a wrongful termination claim against your employer.
First and foremost, it is important to establish that employment in Georgia, just as with employment across the nation, is at-will. What this means is that employers are free to hire and fire individuals as they see fit and without any real reason.
That said, there are a number of reasons for which your employer CANNOT fire you, each of which is listed on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website. If your employer fires you for any of the reasons listed on the EEOC's website, he or she may be sued for wrongful termination, or even discrimination. In addition to a person's gender, national origin, sex, age, or disability, an employer cannot base a termination decision off of retaliation. Firing a person because he or she filed a workers' compensation claim is considered retaliation and is therefore illegal.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to prove that retaliation was the motivation behind your employer's decision. Unless your employer outright stated that he or she let you go because you filed a claim, he or she could claim that you were let go because of underperformance, inability to perform your job functions, or simply that your position had been filled while you were recovering, none of which are illegal reasons for firing a person.
How to Prove Your Employer Fired You In Retaliation
If you suspect that you were let go because you filed a workers' compensation claim, it is imperative that you consult with a Georgia lawyer right away regarding your suspicions. If you are correct, and if there is ample evidence to prove so, your employer may be forced to compensate you for wrongful termination. More importantly, he or she may be dissuaded from committing wrongful termination in the future.
There are a few things you should pay attention to when deciding whether you were discriminated against:
Timing: If you were fired within days or weeks of filing a workers' compensation claim, it is highly likely that your termination was the byproduct of retaliation.
Unclear Reason: Another warning sign that you were discriminated against is your employer's reasoning for firing you. If the reason is unclear, or if it changes from report to report, there is a good chance you were let go because of the claim. Additionally, if the reason does not seem to be at all related to your job performance or the overall financial health of the company, take it as a red flag. Finally, if you do not have a prior history of poor work performance or discipline issues but were let go regardless, there is a good chance your workers' compensation claim is the real reason for your termination.
Manager Interaction: Another sign that you were let go because of your claim is strange behavior from managers and supervisors. If your superiors treat you differently after the accident, if they make hostile comments about you or your injuries, or if they have a difficult time discussing your case, there is a good chance you were let go for exercising your rights.
What to Do if the Signs Point to Retaliation
If you can demonstrate that you were the victim of wrongful termination, you may be able to recover your position as well as any lost compensation. You may even be able to recover compensation for your troubles. That said, you should not attempt to pursue a wrongful termination claim on your own. If you suspect that you were let for unlawful reasons, contact the Georgia workers' compensation lawyers at Christopher Simon Attorney At Law today to learn more about your rights.