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Can You Be Fired While On Workers Comp

• Feb 14th, 2013

Yes,  you can be fired while on workers comp

I am asked this question at least once a month by one of my clients or someone calling me for legal advice.  The answer is “yes”, you can be fired while on workers comp.  Georgia recognizes the doctrine of “Employment at Will”.  Employment at will means that in the absence of a written contract of employment for a defined duration, an employer can terminate an employee for good cause, bad cause or no cause at all, so long as it is not an illegal cause.

A workers’ compensation injury and resulting period of disability does not insulate an employee from this doctrine.  Therefore an employer can fire an injured worker even if the apparent reason is the on the job injury that the employee sustained.

If you are fired while on workers comp, the employer should still have to pay weekly benefits

It is however, unwise for an employer to terminate an injured worker while he or she is totally disabled due to the injury or under physical restrictions that the employer cannot accommodate.  If the employer terminates an injured workers while they are out of work and receiving weekly compensation then the employer essentially must continue to pay weekly benefits to the injured worker until he or she is released to return to regular work by the authorized doctor or until he or she finds another job within the physical limitations assigned by the treating physician.

You can be fired for a reason that is not related to the workers comp injury

By firing an injured worker the employer loses the ability to offer a light duty job and suspend the weekly compensation.  Most employers know that it is not in their best interest to fire an injured worker while the worker is out on workers’ compensation.  This is not to say that the employer will not look for a reason that is not related to the work injury and fire the worker based on this reason.   It is also not to say that the employer will not terminate the injured worker once he or she returns to the job in a regular duty capacity.

The bottom line is that your job is not safe regardless of whether you suffered an injury on the job and are receiving medical care and trying to heal.  Many injured workers fear that a return to work with their employer at any time after a work injury will result in a termination.  Whether an employee will lose his or her job after suffering a work injury depends on many factors.

Settlement may mean you must resign from the job

Often if you settle the claim then the employer and its insurance company expect a resignation as part of the settlement.  If the employee returns to work after receiving the necessary medical attention and has a good relationship with the employer, has been a good worker and has been with the employer for some time, then the employer/employee relationship will continue.  Most people observe how the employer treats its injured employees before they suffer an injury on the job.  The employer’s treatment of fellow employees should be observed and used as a guidepost as to how you may be treated.

It is important to know though that the employer/employee relationship exists at the will of the employer.  There is no exception for the injured worker who has a workers’ compensation claim.  Many of my clients do return to work.  Others choose to settle and move on to another employer.  The choice should be made on a case-by-case basis, depending on the factors discussed above.

If you have any additional questions about this issue or would like to discuss your particular situation you can email me at cts@mysuperherolawyer.com or call Sunne Law, Workers Compensation Attorney, Atlanta Georgia.

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