Can My Employer Fire Me While I’m Out on Workers’ Compensation?

Workers Comp FloridaMost people struggle to make ends meet. When workers are injured on the job, one of their first worries is usually how their injury will affect their employment.

Workers comp Florida law protects workers against unlawful termination related to their workers’ compensation claim. Unfortunately, some employers use an on-the-job injury as an excuse to get rid of a worker.

If you believe you were terminated in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim, it’s important to speak to a West Palm Beach workers’ compensation lawyer right away. Don’t let an employer get away with breaking the law.

Protection Against Retaliation in the Workplace

It’s an unfortunately common scenario: A worker gets hurt on the job and files for workers’ compensation benefits; a month or two later, the boss says the company is struggling financially and needs to make some cuts. Oh well, the boss says, so sorry for the bad timing.

Under Florida Statutes Section 440.205 – coercion of employees – employers can’t fire a worker for filing a workers comp claim Florida. This is also called “retaliation” and it is prohibited under state law.

On the other hand, nothing in the law requires an employer to reserve a worker’s job while he or she is off work to recover from a work-related injury.

However, in most cases, the employer’s insurance company must keep paying temporary partial disability or temporary total disability benefits, even after the employer terminates the worker’s employment.

You are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, even if you were responsible for the accident that caused your injuries.

How to Prove Retaliation in the Workplace

Florida courts have ruled that a worker must prove three things to have legal standing to bring a retaliation case against an employer.

  • The existence of a statutorily protected expression
  • An adverse employment action
  • A causal connection between the statutorily protected expression and the adverse employment action

The Florida Third District Court of Appeal explained each of these elements in Russell v. KSL Hotel Corp. in 2004.

Element 1: The statutorily protected expression- The first element, the existence of a statutorily protected expression, is the filing of a workers’ compensation claim.

In some cases, however, Florida courts have held that a worker doesn’t necessarily have to file a claim to be unlawfully terminated.

In some cases, it’s enough that the employer knew the worker was going to file a claim.

Element 2: An adverse employment action- Proving the second element, an adverse employment action, is usually straightforward, since the worker has been fired. It’s worth noting, however, that retaliation can take many forms.

For example, an employer might retaliate by harassing the worker for filing a claim, or forcing the worker to perform menial jobs as a punishment for filing.

Element 3: A causal connection between filing a workers’ compensation claim and termination of employment- The third element is frequently the most difficult to establish.

To prove a causal connection between the filing of the workers’ compensation claim and the worker’s termination, the worker must show that the employer knew about the workers’ compensation claim and ended the worker’s employment because of it.

Once the worker can prove this initial connection, the burden shifts to the employer to show it terminated the worker for some other reason, such as excessive absenteeism, poor job performance, or some other valid reason.

Fight Back Against Employer Retaliation

If you believe your employer fired you because you filed a workers’ compensation claim, you deserve justice. Proving employer retaliation is not easy.

Give yourself a fighting chance by working with a West Palm Beach workers’ compensation lawyer.

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