You cannot be fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim, but there are several reasons why someone could be fired while they are out on their workers’ compensation.
Technically, your employer is mandated to maintain your job while you are recovering from an injury you sustained in the workplace, or during work hours.
However, there are other legal reasons to terminate you that may have nothing to do with your workers’ compensation claim. That means that if you file a case against your employer for firing you, you would have to prove that you were fired in retaliation for your workers’ compensation claim, which can be quite difficult to do.
For instance, in California, the majority of workers are “at will” employees. These workers can be fired for a variety of reasons, or even for no reason. What’s strictly illegal is to fire someone due to discrimination, or to fire someone to punish them for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Another kind of worker is a “contracted employee.” Their employment is governed by the terms set in the contract, and that would lay down specific reasons or circumstances under which you can be fired. If you are fired in accordance with the terms of your contract while on workers’ compensation leave, then you may have no recourse to regain your job.
A final relevant concept is “maximum medical improvement,” (MMI) which is a term to describe your medical condition while you are recovering from your injury. MMI refers to the moment when your condition plateaus, or the point where you are probably not going to get better even with further medical treatment.
If at the point of MMI, you are unable to fulfill the requirements of your job, that is also grounds for an employer to fire you. If you sustain a physical injury that restricts the work you are able to do, the employer can fire you for inability to perform your job.
In any of these cases, a skilled workers’ compensation attorney would be able to help you explore your options. For example, in the case of work restrictions due to MMI, a lawyer can help you negotiate with your employer to get transferred to an alternative position instead of being terminated. A lawyer can also help ensure that you receive everything to which you are entitled under your workers’ compensation claim, including disability benefits or vocational training.