After you've been injured on the job, the last thing you want to hear is that you were laid off. While your employer's workers' compensation coverage pays for the medical expenses and a percentage of your salary if you cannot work, workers' compensation laws don't protect your job. An employer has no legal obligation to keep your job available when you have a workers' compensation injury.
An employer can lay you off if you have a workers' compensation claim for reasons other than your injury. For instance, if work slows down and you would have been laid off anyway, your company is within its rights to lay you off. There are no laws that require employers to treat injured workers differently than active employees. Everything changes, however, if your employer laid you off because you were injured on the job.
It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against you because of a workers' compensation injury. If your employer laid you off because you filed a workers' comp claim, then you have a right to bring a claim or a lawsuit, depending upon state laws, against your employer. It is illegal for an employer to harass, demote or lay off an employee who uses the workers' compensation system legally. If you think you have been treated unfairly, contact your state's labor department to find out more about your rights under workers' compensation, as each state's laws are slightly different.
In addition to state-mandated workers' compensation laws, the Family Medical leave Act has provisions that protect injured employees from losing their jobs under some circumstances. The Family Medical Leave Act allows full-time employees who work for a company that has 50 or more employees at one location to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave in a 12-month period for specific family and medical reasons. You are also entitled to the continuation of your insurance benefits during the leave period under FMLA.
When your workplace injury prevents you from returning to the physical demands of your previous job, state laws allow for vocational rehabilitation. Once your doctor determines your condition is permanent and stationary, you will be eligible to receive training for a new job. You will work with your workers' compensation claims examiner to determine suitable training. For example, a construction worker who can no longer physically do construction work might receive computer operations schooling.
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images