The answer is not a simple one, but in short, yes. You can still get fired while you are receiving workers’ compensation. In fact, you can get fired for just about anything. You cannot get fired for getting injured (when it wasn’t your fault), receiving workers’ compensation, or applying for workers’ compensation.
You will be fired for any of the typical reasons people are let go from companies. For example, if you are on worker’s compensation for a few weeks and send your boss an inappropriate email, they can fire you. If you harass another employee, you can be fired. If evidence surfaces that you stole something from work before the accident (or after), you can be fired.
Firing an employee who is receiving workers’ compensation can be tricky, not without risk. If an employee is fired, the employer must show that they fired the employee for a reason OTHER THAN the fact that the employee applied for worker’s compensation or was receiving compensation.
If an employer terminates an employee for that reason, they will be facing a world of hurt because such an action is completely illegal. They can also get into legal hot water if they try to unfairly deny your workers’ comp claim to get out of paying it. What happens when an employer denies your claims?
If you are an employee who was recently fired and you suspect your termination was related to workers’ comp, you should absolutely get in touch with an attorney right now.
About Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation is what an employer will often pay you after you have been injured on the job. This type of compensation is meant to help employees who cannot work through the time when they have recovered and are ready to come back.
Oftentimes, if you are injured at work, your doctor will give you an apparent list of what you are and are not permitted to do while you are recovering. Your boss may be able to find work for you that meets these requirements. If they cannot do so, which is often the case in a company that requires duties like heavy lifting, you can stay home and receive temporary total disability (TTD) benefits.
From an employee’s perspective, TTD benefits are great because they allow you to get the recovery time you need without getting bounced out just because of your injury. According to at least one Supreme Court case, TTD benefits needn’t even be temporary. In theory, at least, they can last indefinitely.
The History of Workers’ Compensation
In the (very) olden days, any manual laborer who got injured while working would usually just get fired unless their employer was a particularly generous and warm-hearted person. No law required employers to take personal responsibility for their workers’ continued well-being following an accident until 1911 when Wisconsin became the first state to require workers’ compensation. Mississippi was the last, adopting a similar requirement in 1948.
Workers’ compensation was even more necessary before it was written into law than it is today. This is for the simple reason that jobs are far safer now than they were one-hundred years ago.
Here is one figure to highlight that stark contrast: in 2013, less than 4,000 workers were killed in accidents on the job. This is a tragic figure, but it pales compared to exactly one-hundred years before, when, in 1915, around 23,000 workers were killed in accidents. If you were to scale those 1913 figures to today’s population, it would translate into more than 80,000 workers killed. This is more than twenty times per capita the losses in the modern era.
Those statistics may highlight some of the progress the country has made in the last century. Unfortunately, sometimes employees will be illegally fired because they need or are receiving workers’ comp benefits. When that happens, these crooked employers must be held accountable in civil court.