Over 30,000 workers are hurt on the job in a typical year in Kentucky. When these injuries occur, employees are usually entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits to help with medical expenses and replace a portion of the employee’s lost income.
With so many people claiming workers’ compensation every year, Kentuckians have a lot of questions about the system and what rights they have when collecting benefits. Some of these questions involve how being laid off or fired affects workers’ compensation benefits – and if it’s even possible for employers to fire employees who are collecting workers’ comp.
Below are some of the most common questions pertaining to workers’ compensation and layoffs and the answers to them.
Can I Be Laid Off While on Workers’ Compensation?
No one should have to worry about whether they will have a job to return to while they are receiving workers’ compensation and recovering from an injury. Unfortunately, far too many injured workers do have these concerns.
Employees can be laid off while they are receiving workers’ compensation, but only for certain reasons.
Employers cannot lay employees off or fire them simply for pursuing or receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Those actions are considered retaliatory measures and are a violation of the law.
However, if an employer lays off employees for legal reasons, such as there is no longer a need for a certain department, employees can be laid off even if they are receiving workers’ compensation.
Does My Employer Have to Hold My Job While on Workers’ Comp?
Although employees have certain rights while on workers’ compensation, employers are under no obligation to give them any type of special treatment. That means that if the employer would have gotten rid of the position even if the employee was working, the employer has the right to do so.
Employers are not responsible for keeping a job open for injured employees receiving workers’ compensation or for providing a similar position upon the employee’s return.
Can You Collect Workers’ Compensation After Being Fired?
It depends on two factors since being fired does not legally suspend you from receiving workers‘ compensation benefits. Whether a termination is lawful or not will depend on whether you are still under the doctor’s restrictions and the reason why you were fired.
If you are still under restrictions from a doctor and cannot work, you can most likely still collect workers’ compensation benefits after being fired. The exception to this is if you were terminated for disciplinary reasons. If you engage in misconduct while not under doctor’s restrictions and your employer fires you for this reason, you cannot collect workers’ compensation benefits after termination.
Can You Be Fired While on Light Duty?
Sometimes employees are recovering from their injuries, and while they are not yet fully recovered, they are making good progress. In these cases, many employees can return to work, but they cannot perform all of the same tasks they did before their injury. This is known as light duty because the employee is performing lighter tasks than they once did.
Employees who are on light duty, also called being under doctor’s restrictions, can be fired. If they are immediately fired after they return, they may have a cause for legal action, as the reason for the firing could be employer retaliation for the workers’ compensation claim. However, if the employee returns to work and there is a valid and legal reason for the firing, there is a chance that the termination will be deemed lawful.
What You Can Get from Workers’ Comp
Workplace injuries are very difficult to contend with. While you are trying to recover from them, you are unable to work yet still have daily expenses adding up. On top of these, you also have medical costs that are necessary for your treatment and recovery, but without an income to pay for them.
Workers’ compensation is available to help injured workers with these issues. If you are receiving workers’ compensation for an injury that happened on the job, you are entitled to receive a percentage of your income, as well as payment of all medical expenses related to your injury. If you need retraining for your job or another job, you may also be entitled to that as well under workers’ compensation.
What to Do If You Have Been Laid Off or Fired After a Work Injury
If you have been laid off or fired after pursuing workers’ compensation for a work injury, it’s important to speak to an attorney right away. There is a chance that your employer is retaliating against you for going through the workers’ comp process. Some employers do this because after a worker files a workers’ compensation claim with the employer’s insurance company, their insurance rates increase. By retaliating, the employer is hoping it will deter other workers from filing a claim in the future.
Firing an employee for pursuing a workers’ compensation claim is illegal. Although it’s true that you may not have been fired or laid off, for this reason, an attorney will know how to investigate the real reason why you were fired. If they find it was for retaliation purposes, an attorney can help you take legal action.
You may be able to file a civil lawsuit against your employer that can help compensate for the lost income and perhaps even damage to the reputation you sustained as a result of the firing.
Get Help from a Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
At Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer, we fight for the rights of injured workers and can help you seek the benefits you need while also protecting your job. We know it takes Kentucky Courage to fight for your rights when your employer treats you unfairly. We are prepared to stand up for you.