You never expect to get injured on the job, but it happens all the time. Aside from physical pain and the difficult recovery process of an injury, you will also face substantial medical bills while figuring out how to pay your everyday expenses. In some cases, expensive home modifications may be needed to help you live with your work-related injury.
While Florida law allows you to collect compensation for your workplace injuries, sometimes employers use the on-the-job injury as an excuse to fire a worker. But is this legal under Florida law? If it is, what happens to your benefits when you get fired for filing a workers’ comp claim? If that’s your concern, here is what you need to know.
Florida workers’ compensation laws & limitations
When seeking workers’ comp benefits after a Florida workplace injury, the first thing you need to do is understand your rights as an employee. In other words, you must identify what legal protections are accorded to you and establish whether you qualify to collect these benefits.
In Florida, eligibility to collect workers comp benefits is determined by several factors. These include having proof that you are an employee and that you suffered an injury while on-the-job, or performing work-related activities. On top of that, your employer must have a workers’ compensation coverage and you must fulfil all the requirements of the Florida workers’ compensation process.
While injured employees are allowed to collect compensation benefits from their employer, depending on the industry, only those working in companies with at least four part-time or full-time workers will automatically qualify to collect benefits.
For those working in the agricultural industry, such as on a farm, their ability to collect benefits will depend on whether their employer has twelve seasonal workers working for a minimum of 30 days or six regular employees. However, if you work in the construction sector, you will qualify to collect these benefits, regardless of the number of employees in the company.
Can a Florida employer fire someone for filing a workers’ comp claim?
While you qualify to receive workers comp benefits after a workplace injury, that doesn’t give you any additional privileges. You are just like any other employee. You may be laid off or fired for various reasons not to do with your claim, including economic difficulty in the company. After all, Florida is an at-will employment state. That means employees are free to resign from their jobs with or without reason, just like employers can fire their workers with or without cause, as long as the cause is not discriminatory.
In addition, Florida law does not allow employers to fire employees as retaliation to suffering a workplace injury or seeking workers comp benefits. Doing so is illegal and is considered a form of wrongful termination and may give the employee some ground to file a lawsuit. If you are laid off through no fault of your own while collecting workers’ compensation, your benefits won’t be impacted. On the contrary, you won’t receive any benefits if you’re fired with just cause, and your employer can prove it.
If you believe that your employment contract has been unfairly terminated due to retaliation for a workplace injury, an experienced Florida workers’ compensation attorney can help ensure your rights to workers’ compensation benefits are protected.
Florida workers’ compensation and termination
Instead of dismissing employees after a workplace injury, Florida law allows both the employer and the employee to develop amicable solutions. These may include reducing work hours or hourly pay or re-assigning employee’s job tasks.
Sadly, not all employers are willing to work with their employees to find alternative solutions. Some will try to find their way around this law and fire employees for filing workers’ comp claims. If that happens, you may be entitled to workers’ comp benefits as long as you have not been fired for a cause. That’s why you must determine if the reason your employer fired you is valid and legal.
If you believe that the reason is not legal and is just an excuse by your employer to avoid paying you Florida workers’ comp benefits, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit. Nonetheless, you must work with knowledgeable Florida workers’ compensation attorneys to prove that:
- You filed a workers’ comp claim before your dismissal.
- Your employment contract was terminated or you faced other forms of retaliation like a pay decrease or harassment.
- The employer was aware of the claim and fired you as a result.
Protect your workers’ comp benefits with an experienced Florida attorney
Missing work due to a workplace injury is quite distressing. But, being fired because of your injury and being denied the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve is a lot worse. Luckily, there’s a way to seek justice. Hiring skilled Florida workers’ compensation attorneys can help you establish the best course of action and ensure that your rights to workers’ comp benefits are protected. Contact us online today or give us a call at 561-430-2124 to schedule your free consultation.