You got injured on the job, and you want to file for workers’ comp. But you are also concerned about losing your job if you file a claim.
In North Carolina, workers are protected from employer retaliation when they file claims for workers’ compensation benefits. Unfortunately, some employers violate the law and mistreat workers who try to seek the benefits to which they are entitled. It is crucial to understand your rights as an employee if you believe you are facing retaliation for filing for workers’ comp.
Your Employer Cannot Fire You Because You Filed for Workers’ Comp
North Carolina law prohibits employers from firing employees who assert their legal rights. This includes the right to file for workers’ comp benefits after suffering a job-related injury or illness.
This protection exists under North Carolina’s Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA). As the North Carolina Department of Labor explains, employers cannot retaliate against employees who engage in certain “protected activities,” including filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
Your Employer Can Still Fire You for Legitimate Reasons
To be clear, filing for workers’ comp does not provide you with absolute job protection. Employees can still be fired for all of the same reasons that applied prior to a work-related injury. If you are an at-will employee, this includes firing you without a specific justification (employers can terminate at-will employees for any legal reason or no reason at all).
However, in order to lawfully fire you after you file for workers’ comp, your employer must be able to demonstrate a valid justification. If you have worked in your job for years and you suddenly lose your job after filing for workers’ comp, this certainly raises the question of whether your termination was wrongful. Even if your employer purports to have a valid justification, this purported justification may be a subtext for a retaliatory firing.
You Have Clear Legal Rights If Your Employer Fires You Because You Filed for Workers’ Comp
Let’s say your employer violates your rights under REDA and terminates your employment because you filed for workers’ comp. If this happens, you are entitled to seek remedies which may include:
- Reinstatement in your previous employment position
- Reinstatement of full benefits and seniority
- Financial compensation for your lost income and benefits resulting from the retaliatory firing
- Triple your financial losses if the retaliatory firing was willful
- Compensation for your legal fees and expenses (including your lawyer’s contingency fee)
These remedies are in addition to the workers’ comp benefits you are entitled to receive under North Carolina law.
5 Reasons You Should File for Workers’ Comp in North Carolina
Regardless of whether you are concerned about getting fired, there are several important reasons to file for workers’ comp if you have been injured on the job. These reasons include:
1. Job-Related Injuries Can Be Expensive
Medical treatment for job-related injuries can be incredibly expensive. Even if you have health insurance, your deductibles and copays could eat into your savings or make it difficult to pay your bills.
Medical benefits under workers’ compensation will cover all of the costs of treating your job-related injury. If you don’t file a claim, you will be left paying for these expenses out of your own pocket.
2. It Is Your Right to File for Workers’ Comp
As an eligible employee, it is your right to file for workers’ compensation benefits. North Carolina law grants you this right, and this right exists specifically to help you manage your expenses when you get injured on the job.
3. If You Are Unable to Work, Your Costs Will Continue to Add Up
If your injury prevents you from working, your loss of income and benefits will make it even harder to stay on top of your bills. Once you miss work for seven days, you become eligible to receive partial wage replacement (or “disability”) benefits as well.
4. Filing a Claim Can Reduce the Risk of Future Accidents
Filing a workers’ comp claim can also help reduce the risk of future accidents in your workplace. Hopefully your employer will take your accident seriously and take steps to prevent similar accidents going forward.
5. Your Employer Cannot Legally Fire You for Filing a Claim
Finally, as discussed above, your employer cannot legally fire you because you filed for workers’ comp. As a result, you don’t have to worry about losing your job based on your decision to file for benefits.
If you do lose your job or suffer harassment or discrimination because you filed a claim, you are entitled to additional remedies under North Carolina law. A knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer can help you pursue full benefits and other compensation.
When you get hurt on the job, you should not have to feel like you are sticking your neck out just to get the benefits you deserve. Unfortunately, some employees face this exact situation. Employers may unlawfully fire employees, cut their pay, and take other discriminatory action.
The workers’ compensation lawyers at the Whitley Law Firm are committed to protecting the rights of employees. This includes aggressively asserting our clients’ rights when employers retaliate against employees who file a workers’ compensation claim.
If you experienced workers’ comp retaliation, please contact the Whitley Law Firm by calling (919) 785-5000 today for a free case review. Our workers’ compensation lawyers serve clients throughout North Carolina from offices in Raleigh, Kinston, and New Bern.