After being injured on the job, being let go from your job can come as an unexpected shock. It's not uncommon for employers to suddenly terminate an injured employee who also filed a workers' compensation claim. If you believe you were unfairly targeted due to your injuries, then you'll want to know what to do next.
Find Out Why You Were Fired
Virtually every state in the U.S. abides by the at-will employment doctrine, meaning that your employer can let you go at any time for almost any reason. The one thing your employer can't do, however, is fire you for taking workers' comp. This is why it's important to find out the exact circumstances surrounding your termination. You won't be able to sue your employer if you were:
- Laid off due to seasonal slowdowns in available work
- Fired for performance reasons prior to your injury
- Fired for violating clearly-defined company policy
If you were a model employee with a sterling work record, on the other hand, you stand a better chance of having your wrongful termination claims pushed forward. Again, it depends on your work history and your employer's track record for handling workers' comp claims, among other factors.
If the Firing Was Retaliatory, Get Proof
If your termination turns out to be retaliatory in nature, you'll need proof showing a clear link between filing for workers' comp and being let go from your employer. For instance, you'll need to show as much communication between you and your employer as possible, usually in the form of emails or mailed correspondence. You should also include medical records that help confirm your injuries.
The amount of proof you'll need may depend on your state's unique statutes. In some states, you'll need to show that filing for workers' comp was a strong, if not primary, motivator for your wrongful termination. In other states, you may need to meet a slightly lower burden of proof. It's a good idea to check your municipality and state's statues before filing your case.
Don't Delay When Filing Your Wrongful Termination Claim
The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful termination claim related to your workers' comp claim is usually set on the state level. In most states, you'll get two to three years to file your claim with your state's employment agency. Upon successfully filing with your state's agency, you'll receive a "Notice of Right to Sue" letter that verifies your standing for filing a suit against your employer.
Even without a "Notice of Right to Sue" letter, you still may be able to file suit against your employer for wrongful termination. However, your chances of winning may be significantly lower if you decide to go this route.