Not legally. Although it certainly can and does happen, firing an individual for filing workers’ compensation after an accident at work is an example of retaliation. This is illegal and grounds for a wrongful termination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal commission tasked with investigating violations of employment and labor law in the United States.
If you are fired while you have an open workers’ compensation claim pending, your employer has to prove to the EEOC during its investigation that your termination or layoff was not because of the workers’ compensation claim.
How to Prove your Retaliation Claim
If you file a retaliation claim against your employer, you need to prove that the termination or layoff was because of your workers’ compensation claim and not due to the company’s downsizing, your work performance, or any other legal reason to terminate or layoff an employee.
Your workers’ compensation attorney can help you build a strong body of evidence to prove your retaliation claim’s validity. Some examples of issues to consider include the following:
- What reason were you given for your termination? Is this reason in line with discussions management had previously had with you and others in the company?
- Did you or any of your colleagues see, hear, or otherwise observe any discussions about the true reason why you were let go before or after you were laid off or terminated? Do you have documentation of this, such as a testimony of a statement made during a meeting or text from an email about it?
- Were you offered a severance package that asked you to waive your right to file any type of claim against the company?
Never sign a severance agreement without first discussing it with your attorney. The severance agreement could include wording that prevents you from exercising your right to file a claim against the company or forces you move or remain out of your field with excessively restrictive requirements about the period of time and geographic range that you must avoid to avoid working for a competitor after leaving the company. This is known as a non-compete agreement.
Keep a file that includes documentation of the timeline from the date that you were injured to the date that you were terminated or laid off. In this file, include any pieces of evidence that you have to support your claim, such as emails, transcriptions of discussions you had with your supervisor and others, documentation of your interaction with the company’s Human Resources department, and documentation of your workers’ compensation claim and its progress. Although your company will need to prove its assertion that your termination was not due to your workers’ compensation claim, you will need to prove otherwise. Your attorney can help you create this file and prove your claim.