Can You Be Fired While on Workers Comp?
Many injured workers in Norcross and Gwinnett County are surprised to learn that, in Georgia, your employer can fire you after you have filed for workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ comp is a state-administered program, and each state’s laws are different. Allowing employers to terminate injured workers is not the norm.
In Georgia, our legislators and courts have decided that an employee should not be protected from termination after suffering a work-related injury. An employer has the option to keep their worker employed or fire them, even if they are getting medical care and/or wage-loss benefits through the Georgia workers’ compensation system.
Most people go their whole careers without having to give a thought to the ins and outs of workers’ comp law. We typically see injured workers after they have been fired and/or have been turned down for benefits. They are understandably frightened about their futures and seeking help.
Fortunately, at Adamson & Cleveland, LLC, our experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys know the law and are ready to help an injured worker appeal a denied claim. Being fired does not have to be the end of your workers’ comp claim. In fact, there may be a benefit to your employer letting you go. If you want to learn about it, read below. If you want to do something about it, contact Adamson & Cleveland, LLC now at 470-558-0033 or online.
Fired While on Workers’ Comp? Don’t Go Away Mad
Georgia is an “at-will” employment state. This means employers and employees can establish or end their relationships at any time. More simply put, you can be fired at any time for any reason, except for being a member of a class protected from employment discrimination.
Many years ago, the Georgia legislature rejected a bill that would have made it illegal to fire an employee after he or she had filed a workers’ compensation claim. While technically it is illegal to fire an employee for filing for workers’ comp, there’s little to keep you from being fired afterward.
Even after being fired, if your workers’ comp claim has been accepted, you should still receive benefits.
Workers’ compensation benefits consist of:
- 100% reimbursement for medical costs related to your work injury. You should never see a medical bill if you have seen the authorized treating physician. Georgia law prohibits the medical provider from billing you.
- Disability payments while you are unable to work because of your injury. These may be:
- Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits awarded to a worker unable to work for seven days or longer.
- Temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits awarded to workers who can return to light work or a modified version of the job they worked before an accident. The benefits make up the difference in pay if the light duty work pays less.
- Permanent partial disability (PPD) awarded a worker with a permanent injury but with some capacity to hold gainful employment, which likely pays less than prior earnings.
If you were not working and receiving TTD benefits or were working and receiving TPD or PPD benefits, your workers’ comp benefits should continue despite your being fired. You should continue to receive weekly checks until you are dismissed from a doctor’s care. If you are deemed totally disabled by your doctor, you are under no obligation to look for a new job while the workers’ comp benefits continue. If you are able to do light duty or restricted work, then you will have to look for a new job to keep your benefits.
If you were fired from a position that required reasonable accommodation for a disability (caused by a workplace injury), you may be able to file a claim for disability discrimination. Federal law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to enable an employee with a disability to perform essential functions of a job, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.
If you had returned to full-time, full duty work you would no longer have been receiving disability payments. However, if you were fired and a doctor said later that because of your original occupational injury you couldn’t work or could work only with certain restrictions, you would be able to re-open your claim and resume disability benefits.
If you were fully recovered and able to work but were fired, you may file for Georgia unemployment benefits. In fact, if your employer or the workers’ comp insurance administrator tries to terminate your workers’ comp benefits after you have been fired, you may obtain unemployment while waiting for your workers’ comp case to be resolved. You cannot collect unemployment and workers’ comp at the same time.
Finally, an option that may be available to you after suffering a workplace injury is what’s known as a third-party injury claim. Workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance. Because payment is theoretically guaranteed regardless of fault, workers’ comp law prohibits the injured employee from suing his or her employer, regardless of the employer’s responsibility for the accident. However, third parties other than your employer – contractors, vendors on a job site, subcontractor companies working on the same construction site, the manufacturer of faulty equipment – do not have such immunity.
If a third party caused your occupational injury, a third-party legal claim may compel them to compensate you. Such a settlement or jury award would not affect your workers’ compensation benefits.
You have rights and options after being injured on the job in Georgia. The Atlanta workers’ comp attorneys at Adamson & Cleveland, LLC will protect your rights and help you obtain all of the workers’ compensation benefits that are available to you by law.
The employer who fires you after an occupational injury will likely move next to close your workers’ comp claim. He or she is hoping you’ll go away, disappear and quit drawing benefits. You don’t have to let that happen. If you have been dismissed from your job, don’t give up on your workers’ comp claim without talking to a knowledgeable workers’ comp lawyer.
Contact Us About a Workplace Injury and Problems with Your Georgia Employer
If you have been injured while on the job in Norcross, GA, Gwinnett County, Athens, GA, or anywhere in the greater Atlanta area, the workers’ compensation attorneys of Adamson & Cleveland, LLC have the experience to fight for the workers’ comp benefits you are entitled to, no matter the roadblocks your employer and/or their insurers try to put in your path.
Schedule a free and confidential consultation with us today by calling or contacting us online.
Alan is a Gwinnett County native who proudly serves his community and provides skilled representation to injury victims and their families as a founding partner of the personal injury law firm of Adamson & Cleveland, LLC. Alan earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia and went on to graduate, summa cum laude, from Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School. He is also a graduate of Gerry Spence’s renowned Trial Lawyers College (TLC) in Wyoming. In his free time, Alan frequently speaks at continuing legal education seminars. He also volunteers as a youth baseball coach and assists his local high school’s moot court competition team.