Can I Be Terminated While On Workers’ Comp?

If you or a loved one sustained an injury in the workplace, then you should be protected by workers’ compensation insurance, at least when it comes to recovering compensation for medical bills and most of your lost wages. However, can an employer terminate a person who is currently receiving workers’ compensation benefits? The answer to this is complicated, and it depends on the circumstances surrounding the termination.

Can You Get Fired After a Work Injury?

The short answer is, yes, you can lose your job after sustaining a work injury and filing a workers’ compensation claim, but maybe not in the way that you think.

The reality is that some employers do make the (ill-informed) choice to fire a worker after the worker sustains an injury and after they report the injury. This would not be legal. Under Oregon’s workers’ compensation laws, a person cannot be retaliated against for reporting a workplace injury and for filing a workers’ comp claim. Additionally, a person cannot be terminated from their position simply because they are receiving continued workers’ compensation benefits while they recover.

However, this does not mean that the employer cannot terminate the injured worker for some other reason. Oregon is an at-will state in terms of employment, which means that a person can not only leave their job for any reason whatsoever, but an employer can essentially terminate a person for any reason whatsoever (so long as the reason for termination does not violate state or federal law).

Perhaps putting this into an example would make the situation a bit more clear. Let us suppose that Bobby is a machinery technician and gets injured because he accidentally put his finger in an area where it should not have been. Bobby immediately reports this injury to his supervisor and receives medical care, and because the workers’ compensation system in this state is considered no-fault, he receives coverage of medical bills and a portion of his lost wages if he cannot work.

The employer cannot fire Bobby because he reported the injury and filed a workers’ compensation claim, but there are various other ways an employer may be able to terminate Bobby that may or may not have to do with the injury. This includes:

  • Letting Bobby go because of poor performance evaluations
  • Firing Bobby because he failed to follow proper safety protocols
  • Terminating Bobby because of a downsize and the overall staff on the job

Essentially, Bobby’s employer can let him go for just about any reason they want or can think of that does not have to do with reporting the injury or receiving workers’ comp. If you think about this for a moment, you can see how this can get tricky because an employer could certainly hide the real reason they are letting Bobby go behind other seemingly legitimate reasons.

Workers Will Continue to Receive Benefits

If a person does lose their job after sustaining the workplace injury or while they are still receiving workers’ compensation benefits, they will continue to receive the benefits until after they have reached what their doctor says is maximum medical improvement (MMI). This includes complete coverage of all medical bills related to the injury as well as a significant portion of their lost wages if they cannot work while recovering.

Call us today to speak with a Portland personal injury lawyer.