Can I Be Fired While on Worker's Comp?

When an employee is injured in the workplace, he usually receives salary and benefits while he recuperates. This is known as worker's compensation. However, worker's compensation provides the employee no special protection from firing. An employee can conceivably be terminated while on worker's compensation.

Recently fired employee.
Recently fired employee. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)
Worker's Compensation

If a worker's compensation claim becomes burdensome enough for the employer, it may have a strong incentive to fire the employee and hire a new one. However, firing an employee for this reason is illegal.

Construction workers on the job.
Construction workers on the job. (Tay Jnr/Digital Vision/Getty Images)
Laws Against Retalitatory Firing

A number of federal laws, including the Americans with Disability Act, prevent employers from firing an employee due to his worker's comp status. In addition, many states have laws that forbid employers from firing a person who is out on disability. Therefore, in no case can an employee be fired just because he is out on worker's comp. However, an employer may try to fire the employee for other reasons, perhaps disguising the real motive.

Laws protect against firing employees.
Laws protect against firing employees. (Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images)
Exemptions

There are instances in which an employer can fire an employee on worker's comp. In California, for example, an employer can eventually fire the worker if it cannot accommodate the employee's disability, such as by providing substitute work; if the employee's work is substandard; if the employee fails to keep the employer apprised of his condition; or if the employer is severely short-handed and no other employee can do the disabled employee's work. Similar rules can apply in other states.

California has exemptions to the rules.
California has exemptions to the rules. (Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)
Considerations

According to the publication Workers Comp Insider, it is almost always a poor idea to fire an employee who is out on workers compensation. The employer may leave itself open to lawsuits alleging a retaliatory firing. If a company has a problem with an employee, one that necessitates firing, the company should fire the employee while he is performing his job, not while he is on disability leave.

Woman in wheelchair with doctor.
Woman in wheelchair with doctor. (Jochen Sands/Digital Vision/Getty Images)
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