Can Your Employer Punish You for Making a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
There are many people who refuse to get treatment after an injury on the job. They may have their own reasons, although few reasons are valid given how important it is to get help for yourself as soon as possible. One reason which sounds like it has legal validity, is the fear of an employer “punishing” an employee for pursuing workers’ compensation benefits.
However, this fear is completely unfounded, as the law protects workers who pursue workers’ compensation from being retaliated against by employers.
Claims Protected by the Law
Any workers’ compensation claim that has merit is protected under the law. It does not matter if you just make a claim, or if you have to sue for benefits; your employer cannot punish you in any way for needing and pursuing benefits.
The only caveat is that the claim must have merit. This doesn’t mean that you have to win your workers’ compensation case, it just means that there must be a good faith basis for pursuing benefits.
Not only is it illegal for an employer to fire you for making a workers’ compensation claim or for suing for workers’ compensation benefits, but an employer can’t take any negative action against you. This can include denying you for promotions, or denying you benefits in the workplace that are afforded other employees. It also protects you against intimidation, coercion, or undue pressure that is put on you by an employer that is intended to “get back” at you for making a workers’ compensation claim.
Proving that an employer is punishing you for making a claim can be shown with circumstantial evidence (rarely will an employer admit that it is punishing you for making a workers’ compensation claim).
For example, showing other workers (who did not make a workers’ compensation claim but who are otherwise in the same or similar situation as you) are getting benefits that you are not getting, may be evidence that you are being discriminated against or punished. A negative action (being fired or refused a promotion) within a short period of time of the workers’ compensation claim being made can also be evidence against an employer.
Employees are afforded such protection that even a subsequent employer is prohibited from discriminating against you for making a claim while you were working for a prior employer.
Sometimes an employer will cite reasons other than the compensation claim (such as poor performance or insubordination), as reasons why the employee was fired or denied certain workplace benefits. Some of these reasons may be legitimate. Even if an employee is fired for a legitimate reason in addition to being fired because he or she made a workers’ compensation claim, if the workers’ compensation claim was a “substantial factor” in the employer’s decisions, the employer is acting illegally.
If you are injured on the job, make sure that you get the workers’ compensation benefits that you are entitled to. The Tampa workers’ compensation attorneys at Barbas, Nuñez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian can help you if you were injured in an accident while on the job. Schedule a consultation today.