Probably you are struggling with a repetitive stress injury, like carpal tunnel syndrome. Your employer notified you that you would be laid off as part of workforce optimization while you’re away recovering. Is this legal? Is your job protected under the Workers’ Comp laws just because your injuries prevent you from working?
On leave, laid off
Can your employer lay you off while you are on Workers’ Compensation leave?
The answer depends on the primary reason for your employers’ decision. If you were laid off just because you were on Workers’ Comp leave, that is indeed a case of illegal retaliation. But if your employer would have terminated your employment even if you were still an active worker, the fact that you’re from work on temporary leave cannot necessarily protect you from termination or lay off. Does this sound like legal hairsplitting?
Well, every state has specific laws that prevent employers from retaliating against workers who received Workers’ Comp benefits. That means your employer should not demote, fire, lay you off, or otherwise harm you just because you chose to exercise your rights under the Workers’ Compensation system. If you or any other employee has been a victim of unacceptable retaliation, consult with an experienced lawyer. Note that the law allows you to sue your employer in the event of wrongful termination.
The concept that employees have job immunity while on Workers’ Comp leave is a common misunderstanding. You can still lose your job for other legally-acceptable reasons even though you shouldn’t be fired just because you are on temporary disability leave. For instance, if your employer is forced to downsize and is forced to lay off workers, you may be one of the employees to go.
The employer’s rights
While it sounds pretty suspicious on the surface, there’s a legal footing for your employer to stand in this regard. When downsizing, an employer must conduct employee research to determine the organization’s most valuable workers. Underperforming workers or those in the company’s offices that are being shut down will definitely be laid off. That means being on Workers’ Comp leave doesn’t make you immune to layoffs.
The issue could become questionable if your employer didn’t have an apparent reason to lay you off while you were on temporary disability leave. This could point to some retaliation or workplace discrimination just because you successfully sought fair compensation. For instance, if you were the only employee laid off under unclear circumstances, the seeming randomness of your employer’s decision would raise a few eyebrows. If this happens, consult with an attorney who can fight for your rights.
You were laid off during your Workers’ Comp leave, here’s what you should do
First things first; contact your lawyer. The employment law and Workers’ Compensation laws are complicated. You have rights, and so does your employer. An experienced lawyer can help analyze the issue and help you take the most appropriate action.
Your employer should never fire you for unlawful reasons like retaliation or discrimination. This is referred to as wrongful termination. Firing a worker just because they are on a Workers’ Comp leave isn’t different from firing the same employee based on discriminatory reasons such as race, nationality, religion, sex, and other protected areas.
There are short time limits for claiming that an employee retaliated against you. Besides, your injuries might make it more challenging to handle the issue. A Workers’ Compensation lawyer can help fight for your rights. In the event that a lawsuit is necessary, the lawyer can help you navigate these hard issues.