The Georgia Workers’ Compensation system provides an important avenue of relief for employees who incur injury on the job. If you recently sustained a work-related injury, you may be worried about consequences. You know you’re eligible to file a claim, but you’re also in a competitive marketplace and fear reprisal. One of the most common questions we hear is: “Can I be fired for filing a claim? Will my job be waiting for me when I get back?” Here is the simple answer:
You Enjoy Certain Protections Under the Law
Many employees worry about losing their job when filing their workers’ compensation claims. Losing a job under these circumstances is not without precedent. It is illegal for an employer to let an employee go for filing a workers’ compensation claim, but it does happen.
The Georgia Secretary of State says that employees throughout the state are at-will workers. This means that an employer may terminate a contract of employment for any just cause, or even no cause at all, as long as it’s not illegal. These “illegal” causes include the following:
- Race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation
This last one is the most pertinent when it comes to workers’ compensation claims. An employer cannot lawfully retaliate or fire you for filing for benefits to which you’re entitled. On the other hand, it can happen because employers know that their employees might be unfamiliar with the retaliation clause.
Is It Ever Legal?
On the other hand, there might be some circumstances in which you may be lawfully fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim. One example might be if you sustained an injury away from the job, and tried to file a workers’ compensation claim. Falsifying information on your workers’ compensation claim forms may put your job in jeopardy. Finally, you may be subject to termination if you were injured on the job, but were under the influence of drugs or alcohol (this also bars you from collecting a workers’ compensation claim).
Will My Job Be Waiting for Me When I Get Back?
Your employer is required to keep your job open until you’re ready to return to work. When you’ve completely recovered from your work-related incident, your doctor will inform you if you have any work restrictions. If so, your employer is required to accommodate those restrictions in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Each employer is required, under this law, to provide “reasonable accommodation” that allows you to perform your job. If they can accommodate you without undue hardship, they’re legally bound to do so.
If your employer cannot accommodate you without significant hardship, they are allowed to terminate your employment. This usually only applies in instances in which someone with your restrictions cannot perform the job. For example, if you’re a commercial vehicle operator but can no longer drive, your employer may terminate your employment. If this applies, you’re eligible for more workers’ compensation benefits, and possibly total disability benefits. For more guidance, speak to an employment attorney.