If you’ve been injured on the job, you may have a variety of concerns. You may be wondering how much it will cost to get the treatment you need, and you may be wondering how you are going to pay your rent and utility bills during your recovery.
You may also be concerned about getting fired.
We regularly speak with individuals who have suffered job-related injuries, and many of these individuals have questions about what will happen if they file a workers’ compensation claim. This includes questions about whether they can get fired for filing a claim for benefits.
Your Employer Cannot Fire You Because You Filed for Workers’ Compensation Benefits
The short answer is “No.” In Ohio, your employer cannot fire you because you filed for workers’ compensation benefits. You have the legal right to claim workers’ compensation when you get injured on the job (as long as you are an eligible employee), and your employer cannot legally fire you for exercising your legal right.
Firing an employee because he or she filed a claim is referred to as “retaliation,” and it is prohibited under Ohio’s workers’ compensation law.
The prohibition on retaliation is intended to ensure that employees are not discouraged from seeking the benefits to which they are legally entitled. If employers could fire anyone who filed for benefits, far fewer employees would file claims. This would frustrate the purpose of Ohio’s workers’ compensation law, which exists to ensure that employees do not bear the financial burden of injuries they suffer on the job.
Your Employer Can Still Terminate Your Employment for Other Reasons
But, while retaliation is illegal, employers can still file their employees for other reasons. Ohio is an “at will” employment state, which means that employers can generally fire their employees at any time and for any reason—as long as the reason is legal.
Filing for workers’ compensation does not guarantee that you will still have a job when you are able to return to work. If your employer terminates your employment for reasons unrelated to your workers’ compensation claim, this does not constitute retaliation. For example, let’s say you suffer a serious injury that leaves you on temporary total disability. If your employer downsizes or eliminates your department while you are out on disability, you can lose your job while you are on workers’ comp.
To be legal, however, your termination must truly be unrelated to your claim for benefits. If your employer claims to have a legitimate reason for firing you but is actually retaliating, this “pretext” does not justify your termination. If you suddenly find yourself facing negative performance reviews or complaints about your conduct on the job after filing a workers’ compensation claim, this could be a sign that your employer is trying to create a pretext for terminating your employment.
What to Do if You Have Concerns About Losing Your Job if You File for Workers’ Comp
What should you do if you have concerns about losing your job if you file for workers’ comp? First and foremost, you should keep in mind that this type of retaliation is illegal, and most employers know it. Retaliation against employees who file for workers’ comp is relatively uncommon—especially in Ohio, where most employees receive benefits through the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).
But, while workers’ compensation-related retaliation is relatively uncommon, it does happen. Sometimes, employers will try to silence employees in order to avoid facing liability for workplace safety violations and other issues. With this in mind, if you have concerns about retaliation, it will be especially important for you to:
1. Keep as Much Documentation as Possible
If possible, you should take photos and videos to document the cause and location of your injury. You should also write down the names of any co-workers who saw you get injured, and you should keep track of who you tell about the accident (i.e., your supervisor or HR representative). You should be sure to keep a copy of your injury report as well, and you should review your employer’s First Report of Injury (FROI) to make sure it is accurate—and correct any inaccuracies as necessary.
2. Make Sure You Handle Your Workers’ Compensation Claim Appropriately
As you go through the workers’ compensation claim process, you will want to be careful to avoid any mistakes that could lead to unnecessary problems. If you do everything that is necessary to assert your right to benefits, this will help with addressing any issues related to unlawful retaliation as well.
3. Hire a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer to Represent You
Any time you have a potential injury claim, it is a good idea to speak with a lawyer. When you get injured on the job, you can hire a workers’ compensation lawyer to help you at no out-of-pocket cost. Not only can your lawyer help you obtain benefits, but getting a lawyer involved can also help prevent your employer from acting improperly.
Ultimately, any concerns you may have about getting fired should not deter you from filing for workers’ compensation. As discussed above, eligible employees have the right to file for benefits, and your employer cannot deprive you of this right by threatening to terminate your employment. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer will be able to deal with your employer for you and help protect your job, and if you still get fired for seeking benefits, your lawyer can seek additional compensation for your employer’s wrongful retaliation.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Columbus, OH
If you would like to know more about your legal rights after suffering a job-related injury in Ohio, we invite you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. Once you get in touch, we will arrange for you to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in confidence as soon as possible. To schedule an appointment at Malek & Malek Law Firm, please call 888-444-7440 or tell us how we can reach you online today.