The law allows employees who suffer injuries at work to seek workers’ compensation benefits. Unfortunately, some employers retaliate against these workers and terminate the employment contract. To protect these employees from such acts of retaliation, Florida’s legislature enacted section 440.205 of Florida Statutes.
This law provides that no employer should discharge, intimidate, threaten to discharge or coerce any worker because of his or her valid claim for compensation or any attempt to claim compensation. Employees who suffer injuries while on official duties and seek workers’ compensation are protected under workers’ compensation laws in Florida.
As explained in section 400.205, employers who discharge a worker for filing workers’ compensation claim should face legal consequences. Also, the law ensures that workers don’t have to fear any form of reprisal from the organizations they work for in case they want to pursue workers’ compensation benefits.
Another section of the workers’ compensation law that lists prohibited activities reveals that it is a first-degree misdemeanor for employers to do the following knowingly;
- Coerce an employee to acquire a certificate of exemption to pursuant to Section 440.205, Fla. Stat. (1991)
- Refuse to hire or discharge someone just because they filed a claim in accordance with the workers’ compensation laws
- Discharge or take any adverse personnel action against a worker for disclosing to the law enforcement department regarding violations of the workers’ compensation law.
Can you sue for retaliation?
You can sue an employer who was insured at the time of the workplace accident. Remember, Section 440.205 can’t be read to authorize a lawsuit against employees in their individual capacity. By enacting this law, Florida’s legislature waived the sovereign immunity from workers’ comp retaliation claims when a government agency, the state, and its subdivisions are employers.
Also, Section 440.205 covers employees who get discharged by a subsequent employer just because they are considered ‘high-risk’ workers after filing workers’ comp claims against a former employer. Remember, this law is complicated. You may need the help of an experienced attorney to handle these issues successfully.
Under Section 440.205, you can still sue your employer for retaliation even if you never recovered workers’ compensation benefits. Actually, the claim doesn’t have to be compensable for a retaliation case to survive. The term ‘valid,’ as mentioned in Section 440.205, must not be construed to mean a claim that can be compensated. Instead, it means any workers’ comp claim. Even if the employee’s claim was denied, this could not bar a retaliation lawsuit.
There are other adverse employment actions by the employer that constitute retaliation. These include disadvantageous assignments or transfers, demotions, unwarranted negative employment evaluation, refusals to promote, and toleration of various forms of harassment by other workers who support the claim. Basically, any action intended to punish the employee for filing a claim is considered retaliation.
The employers still have their right to terminate workers for legitimate reasons. Some of these reasons include excessive absenteeism, unsatisfactory job performance, and more. Remember, Section 440.205 cannot be interpreted to provide an absolute prohibition on the discharge of a worker just because they sought workers’ comp benefits.
Section 440.205 gives a basic understanding of workers’ rights, particularly those who feel that they are victims of retaliation by either a current or subsequent employer for pursuing workers’ compensation benefits. Consult with an experienced attorney to help you handle these issues.