If you're seeking workers' compensation benefits, you may be wondering if this will affect your employment. Although employers aren't allowed to fire you simply because you've filed for workers' compensation, you can still be legally terminated under certain circumstances.
Retaliatory termination means that your employer has fired you as punishment for seeking workers' compensation benefits. Retaliatory termination is illegal under Louisiana law. Your workers' compensation benefits are a legal entitlement for any workplace injury, even if your own inexperience or carelessness caused the accident.
If you are the victim of a retaliation, you can file a wrongful discharge lawsuit against your employer. However, you must file your claim within one year of the retaliatory action. A wrongful discharge suit can allow you to recover up to one year's worth of lost wages.
Valid Reasons for Termination
Most workers in Louisiana are classified as at-will employees, which means they can quit or be terminated at any time. Some examples of valid reasons your position could be terminated as an at-will employee include:
- There were previous issues with poor performance before your injury.
- You violated an established company policy, such as mishandling confidential information.
- You engaged in misconduct, such as theft or failing a workplace drug screening.
- The company is having financial problems and needs to cut staff.
- The company is being restructured and your position is being eliminated.
If you belong to a labor union, there may be a collective bargaining agreement that specifically outlines the reasons you can be terminated.
If you're a contract employee, you can only be terminated for the reasons listed in your contract. For example, it's common for workers to have a clause in their contract saying they can be terminated if they're unable to work for an extended period of type—such as three to six months. In this case, the employer generally has a legal reason to terminate the contract even if the worker isn't able to return to work due to an injury.
Termination Related to Work Restrictions
Some types of injuries will come with permanent work restrictions. If you have permanent restrictions, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires your employer to make reasonable accommodations to allow you to continue your employment. Examples might include allowing you extra breaks or having an ergonomic workstation that limits the time spent sitting or standing.
If your restrictions prevent you from performing your job entirely, you can be terminated. For example, if your job involves a great deal of heavy lifting and you can no longer lift more than 10 pounds, there is no way to reasonably accommodate your needs. In this case, your termination would make you eligible for vocational retraining and permanent disability payments.
What to Do After a Termination
If you are fired after seeking workers' compensation benefits, you should:
- Inquire about the specific reasons for your termination.
- Ask who made the decision to fire you.
- Request to review your personnel file.
- Negotiate for the highest possible severance package, including the continuation of medical and dental benefits.
- Confirm all promises regarding your severance package in writing.
- Decline any offer that you resign instead of being terminated
It is understandable to be angry about a termination, but it's important to keep calm. Do not act on any negative impulses regarding your employer. Verbal outbursts, physical aggression, or damage caused to company property will only limit your options for legal action against the company.
How Neblett, Beard & Arsenault Can Help
Being fired after filing a workers' compensation claim isn't necessarily illegal, but a termination that occurs shortly after your injury should be viewed with suspicion. If you believe you've been fired in retaliation for accessing your legally entitled workers' compensation benefits, it's in your best interests to consult an experienced attorney immediately.
Please call the experienced legal team of Neblett, Beard & Arsenault at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation case review. Appointments are available at one of six locations throughout the state. You can also contact us online and we will be certain to be in contact.