Can You Lose Your Job While on Workers’ Comp?

April 10, 2024
Savage, Royall & Sheheen

You may be shocked to learn that you lost your job after receiving workers’ compensation benefits. You may have been under the impression that you have absolute protection from being terminated and that your job will be waiting for you when you return.

That is not entirely true under South Carolina law. However, there are some protections that you have under the law. If your employer has wrongfully terminated you when you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits, call the Camden workers’ compensation attorneys at Savage, Royall & Sheheen, LLP.

Can You Be Fired for Filing for Workers’ Comp?

Your employer may not be happy that you have filed a workers’ compensation claim. Their insurance rates rise the more claims are filed. Since workers’ comp is a no-fault system, your employer may be upset that something you did caused their costs to increase.

In general, South Carolina law allows your employer to fire you for any valid purpose. If you are an at-will employee, your employer does not necessarily need a reason to fire you.

However, the law also prevents them from firing you for an illegal or improper purpose. When they do, you may file a lawsuit against them and receive compensation if you can prove that they acted illegally.

Your employer may terminate you following a workers’ compensation claim. However, the law does not allow an employer to retaliate against an employee who files a workers’ compensation claim.

Keeping Your Job After a Workers’ Comp Claim Is Not Automatic

There is no guarantee that you can keep your job no matter what when you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits. The fact that you have filed the claim does not protect you from other employment actions against you.

South Carolina law allows an employer to fire you while you are receiving benefits for legitimate business reasons. The problem is that whatever the employer does gets caught in a business reason that may seem valid on the surface.

Your employer may be conducting general layoffs, and there is nothing that keeps you from being included in these cuts. In addition, your employer may terminate you based on your job performance. If you did something to cause a serious accident that was your fault, while you may still receive benefits, you can still lose your job.

In addition, you may not be allowed to miss work indefinitely when you are injured. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows you to take up to 12 weeks of medical leave under certain circumstances. Once that leave runs out, and you are still not able to return to work, you may be subject to termination if your employer so chooses.

What the Employer Says May Not Always Be True

However, your employer may also have given a pretext for your firing. They meant to retaliate against you, but they have given a colorable reason that may justify your termination.

An employer is never going to say that they fired you for filing a workers’ compensation claim.

Then, they would be subject to serious liability. You would have to come up with evidence of your own that disproves what your employer has said.

Much of the evidence that backs a wrongful termination case will be circumstantial. Once the employer gives a colorable business reason for your termination, the burden of proof would shift to you to prove that they acted wrongfully.

You may use the following to prove your case:

  • Performance reviews that show you were doing your job well
  • Testimony from your fellow employees
  • Email communications or other records that show something at odds with what your employer has said
  • Evidence of disparate treatment afforded to other employees

You would likely need more than just your word to prove your employer wrong.

Your employer is forbidden from taking several actions to retaliate against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim. They may stop short of firing you, but they do something like force you to take leave. They may set the stage for a future termination by giving you a negative performance review.

Any type of retaliatory action is illegal and allows you to file a lawsuit. You have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim, and your employer cannot punish you for it.

It is important to know that your workers’ comp benefits would continue even if you were fired in South Carolina. The fact that you established that you have suffered a work-related injury would legally entitle you to benefits. That does not change just because you are no longer employed.

Contact a Camden Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today

If you are experiencing any complex issues related to your workers’ compensation claim, including a wrongful termination, we can help. The attorneys at Savage, Royall & Sheheen, LLP, can take on your employer when they have acted against the law.

Reach out to us to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your claim. To speak with an experienced attorney, you can message us online or call us today at 803-432-4391. You owe us nothing unless you win your case.

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