This question is asked often and rarely is the motivation of the employer clearly demonstrated. Most of the time all we can advise is to sit down with an Iowa workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss the injured employee’s suspicions. So let us get right to the question.
Question: Is it legal to fire someone on workman's compensation, if not can I sue them?
Question Detail: I work lifting heavy parts at work. I’ve worked for this employer for over fifteen years. I’m in my fifties and not in perfect health. For the past couple of years I have been developing low back pain and recently it has got a lot worse. I reported this problem to my supervisor who reported it up the chain of command. The people in the front office told me to see my doctor. I did, the doctor ordered an MRI that showed a ruptured disc. She said the ruptured disc is the reason why I’m having pain run down my right leg and why my foot is having a burning sensation. I also have some tingling and numbness in that foot and in the left foot. The doctor told me to take some time off of work, which I did. But after a month of being off of work the employer suddenly fired me saying they needed to replace me. Can they do this? Can I be fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim? I like my job and don’t want to lose it. My family counts on my earnings to put food on the table. Please help me.
Answer: There are many legal reasons someone out on workers’ compensation to be let-go, and only one that is illegal. You can’t be fired because you filed for workers' compensation benefits. You can be fired because you are unable to do your job or unavailable to do your job.
So understand it is legal to fire someone who is out-of-work and being paid workers compensation benefits.
But you have to understand the difference which is all about evaluating the employer’s motives. Proving motivation is not easy to show. You almost need someone in management who has been in meetings to discuss what was said. In most cases that information is not available and we are unable to prove why you were actually fired or let-go. I think most employers simply have to get the work done or they lose customers. Others see you as a costly liability and need to reduce their cost to provide healthy employees with the benefit of insurance coverage.
When you have been a good worker, like your job, have an unfortunate injury, like a ruptured disc, and then get the ax, it really feels like a cheap shot. So understand you may be let go, but that action is not cost free to the employer.
There are several financial costs to firing an injured employee. There is no free-lunch to the employers.
- Industrial disability is presumed when the injured employee is fired.
- The burden of explaining the firing shifts to the employer on the issue of industrial disability benefits.
- After the healing period comes to a close, the employee may qualify for unemployment benefits.
- Unemployment insurance costs can increase.
- The employer is not excused from COBRA’s notice requirements.
- Good employees get mad and tend to stay out longer on the healing period.
- Injured employees can full blown depression taking a scheduled member case into an unscheduled injury, which is more expensive.
- Injured employees talk.
- The employer loses good honest workers with refined skills.
Other employees see how the injured worker was treated, and knowing all human capital wears out retaliate in small unnoticeable ways.
If you were injured and fired talk with an Iowa workers’ compensation lawyer about whether your right were violated. Good luck with your Iowa workers’ compensation case and if we can help give us a call.