I Lost My Job While Out On Workers’ Compensation Leave!
When an employee is taking time off from work due to an on-the-job injury, they tend to believe that they cannot be fired or laid off. In reality, there are certain situations in which an employer can legally terminate an employee, even if they are currently injured – but terminating the employee solely because of their injury is against the law. While certainly not the most typical course of events after a workplace accident, the unfortunate reality is that some employees are wrongfully (illegally) terminated in retaliation for filing for benefits. If you are in this situation, consulting an experienced attorney is crucial.
Connecticut is an At-Will Employment State—But You Cannot Be Fired for an Illegal Reason
Whether or not you’re losing your job is actionable largely depends on the reason your employer chose to let you go. Connecticut is an at-will state, like most others, which means that in theory, your employer may end your working relationship for any reason, at any time – unless that reason is discriminatory. Many employees get laid off or terminated when, say, a company has a poor year in terms of profit, which is not a discriminatory reason for a termination.
Contrary to popular belief, your job is not safe simply because you are out on a workers’ compensation hiatus due to injury; no specific protection exists for people in those situations. However, your employer’s reason to lay you off or terminate you must be legitimate and unrelated to your injury for your firing to stand. Put another way, the fact that you were hurt on the job and filed for workers’ comp benefits cannot be a factor in your termination.
Know Your Rights: An Overview of the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Act
Employees are protected against wrongful termination under a broad collection of federal and state employment regulations. The majority of employee protections bar discrimination against personal characteristics—such as race, religion, gender/sex, or nationality/ethnic origin. Beyond that, the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Act (31-290a) holds that no employer covered by the law shall terminate or otherwise discriminate against an employee because they have “filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits or otherwise exercised the rights afforded” under the law. If someone is terminated for filing a workers’ compensation claim or a complaint, their employer may be on the proverbial hook for a claim of retaliation. There are specific remedies available in a workers’ compensation retaliation claim. Depending on the circumstances, you may be eligible for:
- Reinstatement if wrongfully terminated;
- Back pay; and
- Attorneys’ fees.
Workers’ Comp and Retaliation: How to Meet the Burden of Proof
Workers’ compensation retaliation claims are notoriously complex. Most employers have a general awareness of the responsibilities under state law. As such, it is rare that they will openly admit to illegally firing in retaliation for filing for workers’ comp benefits. Instead, employers often come up with pretextual (false) reasoning to try to cover their unlawful motivation.
Workers’ comp wrongful termination claims are typically pursued in Superior Court. As a claimant, it is imperative that you are able to present strong, compelling evidence that connects your termination to your work injury/illness and the fact that you filed for benefits. An experienced Connecticut workers’ comp lawyer can help.
Contact A Stratford, CT Workers’ Compensation Attorney
While there are very few legitimate reasons for terminating an employee while they are out on workers’ compensation time, they do exist. Before mounting what may be a long and expensive legal challenge, consulting an experienced Stratford workers’ compensation attorney from the Morizio Law Firm may be a good idea, so that you understand your chances of success and other potential options. Call our offices at 475-338-3505 for a free consultation.