Your employer cannot impose any adverse employment action against you because you file the workers’ compensation claim. They also cannot fire just because you are injured. Some employers essentially “force” you to resign by making your job difficult or assigning you to undesirable tasks. A “forced resignation” is just like a termination, and you may have legal rights if your employer terminates you due to your work injury.
Forcing You to Quit is the Same Thing as Firing You
Instead of firing an employee outright, some companies will attempt to force the employee to leave. They may do this by explicitly stating that the employee will be fired if they do not quit. Employers may also make an employee’s work life difficult or unbearable, essentially forcing them to leave. Employers do this because they think it will help them avoid potential wrongful termination claims and having to pay unemployment benefits. In the workers’ compensation context, they may be trying to avoid paying you work comp benefits.
When an employee is forced out of his or her job, it is considered a constructive discharge. That means that all of the legal remedies are available to the employee as if the employer had outright fired them.
Keep in mind that if you voluntarily quit your job, that can have an adverse effect on your workers’ compensation benefits. Generally, to receive benefits, you must be willing to work, and if you voluntarily quit your job, that is a sign that you are unwilling to work. If your employer forces you to resign, however, “quitting” may not have an effect on your workers’ compensation benefits.
Workers’ Compensation and Termination
Employers are not allowed to dismiss employees because they were injured on the job or because they filed a workers’ compensation claim. In many cases, companies are often deterred from firing employees who have filed for workers’ compensation because they may have to pay benefits even if the employee no longer works for them.
However, assuming that you are not under a contract, an employer can still terminate your employment if he or she has a valid reason to do so. Most employees are considered “at-will,” which means that an employer can terminate you for virtually any reason, as long as that reason is not prohibited by law.
There is also no obligation on your employer for holding your job while you recover from your work injury. They can replace you while you recover. That means that, in some situations, you may not have a job to come back to even if your termination is related to your work injury. Nonetheless, an employer is not allowed to terminate you just because they do not want to deal with your workers’ compensation claim or accommodating your medical restrictions after your injury.
There is a fine line between terminating an employee for cause and terminating him or her because of the work injury. Consulting with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney may be a good idea if you suspect that your termination was based on your work injury.