Workers’ compensation provides coverage for medical expenses and a portion of your lost wages (commonly referred to as “disability” benefits) if you suffer an injury on the job. However, it does not provide protection for your employment. This means that you can be fired while receiving workers’ compensation. From an employment perspective, employees on workers’ comp are no different than employees who are earning their regular wage or salary.
Wrongful Termination and Workers’ Compensation
The fact that you are treated like any other employee means that you can be fired, but it also means that you have certain legal protections. As a result, if you get fired while receiving workers’ compensation, you should speak with an attorney to find out if your employer may have violated your legal rights. If so, you may be entitled to reinstatement, back pay, and other remedies on top of your workers’ compensation benefits.
Retaliation for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim
As an at-will employee (meaning that you do not have an employment contract for a set number of years), you are subject to being terminated at any time. If you would have lost your job even if it were not for your injury, you generally will not have any recourse against being fired.
But, if your employer fires you because you filed for workers’ compensation, this is something that is not allowed. Employers in New Jersey are prohibited from retaliating against employees who file for workers’ compensation. While companies will rarely come out and say that this is the reason someone is being fired, there may be evidence to show that you are a victim of retaliation.
Discrimination Based on Disability
Employers are also prohibited from firing employees based on a disability. There are several laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), that prohibit this form of discrimination. If your injuries leave you temporarily or permanently disabled, your employer cannot fire you based solely on your physical limitations.
What if I Can No Longer Do My Job?
But, what happens if your injuries mean that you can no longer do your job? Your employer can’t simply let you go, but it also wouldn’t make sense for the law to require your employer to keep you on indefinitely. In this scenario, one option is for your employer to offer you a different position.
If your injuries prevent you from returning to work entirely, then you will need to make sure that your workers’ compensation and other benefits provide adequate coverage for your long-term needs. In this situation, it is going to be absolutely critical that you hire an attorney to help with your case.
Questions about Workers’ Compensation? We’re Here to Help
It takes decades of experience to fully understand the New Jersey workers’ compensation system and the laws affecting injured workers. At Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo, our attorneys have more than 100 years of practice helping workers fight for the compensation they deserve. If you have questions about your rights after suffering a work-related injury, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.