If you’ve been injured on the job, you might be wary of submitting a workers’ compensation claim. Often, people in this position are worried that they’ll lose their job. Instead of filing a claim, they might use sick time or vacation days to nurse their injuries and hope to return to work without missing a beat.
Another scenario is that your employer specifically asks you not to file a claim because they’re worried about an OSHA violation or an increase in insurance premiums.
We understand that this situation is nerve-wracking. On the one hand, you’re trying to heal and recover from an injury. At the same time, you’re worried about the fate of your career.
In this article, we’ll discuss where the law protects you and where it may fall short in preserving your job.
Virginia is an At-Will Employment State
Employers in Virginia can dismiss an employee for any reason unless that reason happens to be illegal. This law might sound harsh, but it also works to protect an employee’s freedom. Just like an employer can fire you at any time, you are also free to leave.
The list of illegal reasons is long, however, and it includes discrimination, public policy violations, and retaliation for filing a workers’ comp claim.
What Happens if I Get Fired for Filing for Workers’ Comp?
Despite Virginia’s at-will employment status, Virginia law has concluded that firing an employee in retaliation for filing a workers’ comp claim is illegal. If you’ve been fired as a direct result of filing a claim, you could have a wrongful termination suit. An attorney can help you determine if this is the case.
Is My Position Safe After My Injury?
Even though you can’t technically be fired for filing a claim, the employer does have some latitude in the actions they can take. First, they are not obligated to hold your position while you’re on leave. After all, your employer has a business to run, and they’ll need to bring on someone to fulfill your duties. This means that when you return, you could end up in a different role.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you can be let go if you’re unable to perform the essential functions of your role. Again, this makes sense from an employer standpoint because it’s not going to be feasible to pay you for tasks you can’t do.
The good news is that your benefits will continue even if you can’t return to work in your full capacity. Your doctor will continue treating you until you are fully recovered or all necessary medical treatment has been administered. Further, if you find that you can’t return to your duties, your benefits include training and education so that you can gain qualifications for another position.
Tips for a Successful Outcome
Even though you can’t be fired for your injury and resulting claim, companies may have some tricks up their sleeve to make your situation unpleasant. For example, you find yourself demoted in the aftermath of your claim. Again, just like firing, a demotion that’s retaliatory is also illegal.
An attorney can help in this situation. Getting your job back may not be an option, but a wrongful termination suit could be a viable route.
We also remind workers in this situation that communication is key. Keep your employer in the loop about your progress and forward documentation as necessary to ensure that your boss or human resources department has the latest information about your medical progress. This proactive communication can inspire goodwill and motivate your employer to accommodate you beyond what they’re required to do by law.
Contact Us If You’ve Been Terminated or Have Questions about a Workers’ Compensation Claim
An employer who fires someone solely because they filed a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission should be held accountable for their unfair business practices. Do not try to navigate the complexities of workers’ compensation laws in Virginia on your own.
By enlisting the help of an experienced attorney, you can get the help you need and increase your chances of a positive outcome. Contact us today for a free consultation.