It is the situation many professionals fear most. You are injured on the job and suddenly your employer becomes your enemy. Like any good professional, you go through the right channels by reporting the injury and filing a worker’s compensation claim. Your employer may have tried to convince you not to report the injury or even to file the claim you need to cover your medical expenses and lost hours. But now that you have filed it, without warning, you are out of a job.
Is that even legal in Georgia? Can your employer really fire you for getting injured or filing a claim to cover your expenses afterward? Officially, no. But it is also a common problem, and many Georgia employers take advantage of the at-will employment laws to fire injured workers for supposedly unrelated reasons. We are here to answer your questions about workers compensation firings in Georgia and what you can do if you havebeen unjustly and unlawfully fired with your injury or claim as the reason.
Can You Be Fired for Filing a Worker’s Compensation Claim? – No
In Georgia, it is illegal to fire an employee for being injured, for reporting the injury, or for filing a worker’s claim based on that injury (or work-caused medical condition). Doing so qualifies as workplace retaliation, which is attacking an employee for a lawful act or protected circumstances outside their control – or that is the fault of the company.
So officially, you cannot be fired for filing a worker’s compensation claim in Georgia. But Georgia is also an at-will employment state, meaning employers can lawfully fire you for anything (or nothing) as long as it is not related to a protected class or circumstance, like workplace injury. They can fire you for wearing a green shirt, for parking across the line, or just because. The challenge will be proving that the firing was illegally motivated.
Identifying a Retaliatory Firing for Injury or Workers Compensation
How can you prove your Georgia employer fired you for being injured or filing a claim, rather than a legal at-will firing? Often, this comes down to recorded messages like emails, phone calls, and recorded meetings. Threatening comments, being told not to file, and open statement of consequences can be an indicator. So can a history of firing employees shortly after they are injured, or only firing injured employees if they report and file a claim.
Can You Be Fired While Collecting Worker’s Compensation? – Yes
Let’s say your claim has gone through and you are now working while collecting worker’s compensation to cover your medical costs. Can you be fired while you are on worker’s compensation in Georgia? Yes, being on worker’s compensation is not a protected status. Whether your injury was a week ago or a year ago, your employer can let you go even as you recover from an injury that happened on-premises or because of your work tasks.
However, if you are on temporary or permanent disability and that is why you are still collecting worker’s compensation, you cannot be fired for not performing at your pre-injury capabilities.
Being Fired for Temporary or Permanent Disability After a Workplace Injury
Being disabled, even temporarily, makes you part of a protected class according to the EEOC and ADA laws. (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Americans with Disabilities Act). If you work somewhere required to provide reasonable accommodation for disabled employees and they fire you as a result of your injury-based disability, this is an illegal act of prejudicial firing against the disabled, a protected class.
Can You Keep Collecting Worker’s Compensation if You’ve Been Fired? – Yes
If you havebeen fired after filing a worker’s compensation claim, do not worry. Your employer has not successfully cut you off from benefits, either being approved or continuing to collect the benefits you have already been granted. The reason is that worker’s compensation is an insurance type required and provided by the state, not your employer. While your employer pays the premiums, another reason to maintain a safe workplace, the insurance comes from the state so claims and benefits do not rely on maintaining employment that caused the injury.
Have you been illegally terminated due to becoming injured, filing an workers compensation claim, or the disability that resulted from your injury? Are you worried about your workers compensation benefits in a precarious employment situation? We can help. Contact us today to discuss your situation with an experienced Georgia workers compensation attorney.