When injuries or illness occur as a result of the workplace, the primary worry of many workers is often maintaining a steady source of income while recovering. Workers’ compensation claims can mean you continue to receive benefits even while you cannot work due to injury. However, you may worry about whether your employer can fire you while out on workers’ comp. This quick guide will answer this question and more.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
California state law requires all employers to purchase workers’ compensation insurance for all their employees. In the event an accident causing injury or illness happens in the workplace, workers’ compensation insurance provides the employee with the ability to make a claim and receive compensation for expenses related to the injury. Workers’ compensation claims are not fault-based personal injury suits; if you received an injury, disability, or illness as a result of your work, you may file a claim.
In California, you may file workers’ comp claims to receive one or more of these benefits:
- Medical benefits. Medical benefits provide compensation for all the expenses relating to treating or curing the workplace-related injury or illness. Doctor’s visits, hospital stays, medications, and even travel to and from appointments are medical benefits for which you can receive compensation.
- Temporary disability. In the event that your workplace injury resulted in a stay at a hospital or rendered you unable to work for three or more consecutive days, workers’ comp may pay disability benefits. Temporary disability workers’ comp pays ⅔ of your weekly earnings, but must be above the California state minimum. You may receive temporary disability for up to two years, provided you have medical proof you are unable to work.
- Permanent disability. If you are unable to work permanently as the result of a work-related injury or illness, you will receive a permanent disability payment calculated according to your level of disability. Calculations also take age, occupation, and wages into account. If your disability rating is over 70%, you will receive a life pension, paid biweekly.
Could You Lose Your Job While on Workers’ Comp?
Workers’ compensation provides workers with a way to pay for treatment related to workplace injuries. However, you may be avoiding filing a workers’ comp claim for fear of losing your job, and relying on personal health insurance and sick days to get by. If your condition persists, you may have no choice but to file a workers’ comp claim. Could you lose your job in the process?
Your employer cannot fire you in retaliation for a workers’ compensation claim. In fact, terminating an employee because he or she made a claim is illegal in the state of California. However, your employer can fire you for some other reason while you have an open workers’ compensation claim.
Consider the terms of your employment and whether you are an “at-will” or a contracted employee:
- At-will employees: Most employees are at-will employees, which means employers may terminate their employment at any time, citing whichever reasons they wish. In return, at-will employees may quit at any time. If you are an at-will employee, your employer may not fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim, but nothing prevents the company from firing you and citing poor performance, or any number of issues.
- Contracted employees: If you are a contracted employee, your employer may not fire you for filing a workers’ comp claim. In addition, termination of your contract must meet the terms of the contract itself. Some employers maintain the right to release employees who cannot work, so if your disability exceeds your contracted time, your employer may fire you for violating the contract.
Your employer must continue providing workers’ comp while you recover, and must reasonably accommodate you if you are able to return with workplace restrictions. If you believe your employer terminated your employment in retaliation for your workers’ comp claim, compile all evidence and speak with an attorney regarding your right to sue for employment discrimination.Read More