Many people are under the assumption that they cannot be fired while they are on workers’ compensation. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Florida is an “at-will” state, meaning any employer can fire any employee at any time and for just about any reason. The only time an employer cannot fire a worker is when doing so violates that worker’s rights as protected by state and/or federal employment law. An example of when it would be unlawful for an employer to fire someone would be if the reason for firing was discriminatory, meaning the employee was fired because of his or her race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or any other protected class.
All this to say, yes, unfortunately, your employer can fire you while you are collecting workers’ compensation benefits. However, there is one very important exception to this: your employer cannot fire you because you are collecting workers’ compensation benefits or because you were injured on the job or filed a claim. This is known as retaliation and it is a violation of your rights.
When Is a Lay Off Considered Retaliation?
The current coronavirus pandemic has forced the closure of countless businesses throughout Florida and across the U.S., prompting widespread layoffs and soaring unemployment rates. When deciding who to lay off, employers may choose to terminate employees who are currently collecting workers’ compensation—and this does not necessarily equate to retaliation.
For example, if a business lays off an entire department in order to reduce costs in response to the temporary shutdown, including an employee within that department who is collecting workers’ compensation, it is highly unlikely that the employee will be able to prove he was retaliated against. However, if the business lays off an entire department and a single employee from a completely different, unrelated department who filed a workers’ compensation claim, this could indicate a problem.
Proving that you were retaliated against by an employer for filing for and/or collecting workers’ compensation benefits is rarely an easy task. If you believe you were wrongfully terminated, it’s important that you work with an experienced attorney who can help you navigate this process.
What Will Happen to My Workers’ Compensation Benefits If I’m Laid Off?
With so many employees facing layoffs, many are understandably concerned about what will happen to their workers’ compensation benefits if they are fired or let go. As long as you were not fired for “cause,” meaning you were not fired as a result of your own egregious error and/or misconduct in the workplace, you are still entitled to continue collecting workers’ compensation benefits after you have been let go.
If you were laid off as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic or for any lawful reason while collecting workers’ compensation benefits, you should still be able to collect temporary disability benefits—including medical and wage replacement benefits—until you are offered light duty employment or until you have reached maximum medical improvement. If you reach maximum medical improvement and you are determined to have a permanent disability, you can receive permanent disability benefits, which are calculated based on your impairment rating.
Have Questions? We Can Help!
If you were fired after filing for workers’ compensation or if you were let go and are concerned about your ability to continue collecting benefits and receiving critical care, reach out to our workers’ compensation attorneys. At Van Dingenen Law, Florida workers’ compensation is all we do. We understand the system and are prepared to help you navigate the process during this uncertain time. Contact us today to request a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.