Workers’ compensation benefits can help you cover the costs of medical care, lost wages, and other losses after a work injury. This blog item discusses what could happen to your North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits if you lose your job.
Can My Employer Fire Me During a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Most likely, yes. Chances are, you are an “at-will” employee, which means both you and your employer are entitled to end your employment relationship for any reason or even for no reason at all.
Your employer is prohibited from firing you because you filed a workers’ compensation claim but can still terminate your employment for legitimate reasons, such as:
- Generally poor job performance or absenteeism
- Diminished or no business need for the work you do in your position
- Business restructuring or financial issues unrelated to your work abilities
If you believe your employer fired you or took other adverse actions in retaliation for your workers’ compensation claim, you need to talk to an experienced attorney at Poisson, Poisson & Bower, PLLC, as soon as possible.
What Happens to Workers’ Comp Benefits When You Lose Your Job?
It depends. Workers’ comp benefits are intended to pay for your medical expenses and partial replacement of lost wages until you are healthy enough to return to work. Generally speaking, you should be able to continue to receive your workers’ comp benefits until you’ve recovered as much as medically possible and your doctor clears your return to work.
However, certain factors could jeopardize your income benefits, so there’s no guarantee that these will continue if you’re fired or laid off. It’s important to talk to a knowledgeable attorney to help protect your rights.
If you left voluntarily, your benefits would likely decrease unless you suffered a permanent total disability.
What Constitutes a Legal Layoff While on Workers’ Comp?
As an employee receiving workers’ comp benefits, you are not automatically protected against layoffs just because you are not physically present at work. Your employer can still lay you off for any legal reason unrelated to your occupational injury. If you are laid off because of your injuries or workers’ compensation claim, you should consider hiring an attorney to help you fight back against illegal retaliation.
What If I Return to Work on Restrictions and Then Lose My Job?
If you are still recovering but capable of resuming certain types of light-duty work, your doctor may authorize you to return to work with certain restrictions. If so, you can still receive workers’ comp benefits to make up for your wage losses and ongoing medical needs.
However, your employer can still terminate you while you are back at work under restrictions. If you believe you may have lost your job due to your workers’ comp claim or inability to perform heavy-duty tasks, contact an attorney for legal advice.
Situations When a Firing May Not Be Justified Following a Work Accident
If you believe you were fired or laid off for any of the following reasons after a work accident, there’s a good chance your employer’s actions were not justified:
- Reporting a work accident to your employer
- Filing a workers’ compensation claim for your injuries
- Refusing to perform duties that exceed the work restrictions assigned by your treating physician
- Hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer
- Missing work with an excuse from your treating physician