Most employment relationships are at-will, which means that an employer may terminate an employee at any time with or without cause. One exception to this general rule is that an employer may not terminate an employee for filing a worker's compensation claim. This type of retaliatory action is unlawful because injured workers are entitled by statute to compensation.
Requirements to prove Retaliatory Discharge by an Employer
If an employee is terminated after filing a worker's compensation claim, the employee may have a valid claim for retaliatory discharge if:
- The worker was an employee eligible for worker's compensation,
- The worker filed a claim or otherwise initiated the compensation process,
- The employer terminated, threatened to terminate, or otherwise acted against the injured worker, and
- The termination was caused by the employee's initiating the worker's compensation process.
What if I was Fired Before Filing a Claim?
It could still be possible to bring a successful claim for a retaliatory discharge even if the employee was terminated before actually filing a compensation claim. Depending on the State in which the injury occurred, if the employer knew of the job-related injury and quickly acted against the employee before formal proceedings were initiated, the employee may still have a right to compensation for the employer's wrongful conduct.
When to Hire an Attorney for Wrongful Termination after Seeking Worker's Compensation
You should contact a worker's compensation lawyer if your employer has taken any negative actions against you following an injury you suffered while at work. A qualified attorney will be able to evaluate your rights and remedies, and may be able to recognize a case of constructive discharge. An employer who acted against an injured employee and is facing a potential wrongful termination lawsuit should consult a lawyer.