Can an Employer Terminate You While on Workers’ Compensation?
Posted on behalf of Phillips Law Group on Nov 28, 2017 in Employee Rights
Employees who are injured on the job turn to workers’ compensation to pay for their medical expenses and partial lost wages while they are recovering. However, many workers worry about their employer firing them while they are collecting workers’ compensation benefits.
Unfortunately, Arizona law does not protect injured employees from being terminated while they are on workers’ compensation. However, an employer cannot fire an employee solely because he or she has filed a workers’ compensation claim.
If you believe you were wrongfully terminated after filing a workers’ compensation claim, talk to a Phoenix employment law attorney at the Phillips Law Group. We will investigate the underlying reasons that your employment was terminated to determine if your employer violated the law.
Below, we outline when an employer is allowed to terminate its employees who are collecting workers’ compensation benefits. Employer
Right to Fire At-Will
Many private-sector workers in Arizona are “at-will” employees, meaning there is no contract or agreement that specifies how long their employment will last.
Employment on an “at-will” basis allows the employee or employer to sever the employment relationship at any time, with or without notice.
Additionally, employers can terminate employees for any reason that is not illegal, or for no specific reason at all. There generally does not have to be cause to end the relationship.
This means if you are an “at-will” employee collecting workers’ compensation benefits, your employment can be terminated at any time for any reason that is legal.
However, there are some exceptions that protect employees who are collecting workers’ compensation benefits. This includes:
The terms of “at-will” employment do not apply if the employee is hired under an employment contract. An employment contract is a written, binding agreement that states the terms of employment, including when an employee can be terminated. To be considered a legitimate agreement, an employment contract must be:
- A written agreement signed by the employer and the employee.
- An agreement outlined in an employment handbook or manual that clearly states that it is intended to be an employment contract.
- A written document signed by the employer that states you will be employed for a certain period of time.
If you are employed under an employment contract, it should clearly state whether your job is protected when collecting workers’ compensation insurance. Your employer can face a breach of contract lawsuit you are terminated for any reason other than one outlined in the employment contract.
Although an employer does not have to provide a reason to terminate an “at-will” employee, it cannot be in retaliation for applying for or receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
However, it can be difficult to prove you were fired in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. You will need definitive evidence that clearly shows your termination was retaliatory. This can include performance reports or personal statements made by your employer indicating you were fired for no other reason than collecting workers’ compensation benefits.
If you suspect you were fired in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim, do not hesitate to contact an attorney to discuss your claim. You only have one-year to file a wrongful termination claim in Arizona, according to ARS § 12-541.
Your employer has the right terminate your employment if you are disabled in a work-related accident and can no longer perform your job.
However, if you can still perform your job’s duties with reasonable accommodations, your employer cannot fire you because of your disabilities. In this case, terminating your employment would be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
If you were fired because of your disability and you are still able to perform your job, your employer may be held liable for discrimination. Our attorneys will help you file a charge of discrimination with the:
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- Office of Americans with Disabilities
We are familiar with the agencies that handle discrimination claims in Arizona, and will assist you throughout the claims process.
Will My Workers’ Compensation End if I am Fired?
Workers’ compensation should not end if you are fired, regardless of the reason why you were fired. You will continue to receive benefits until you have recovered or reached Maximum Medical Improvement.
Contact a Seasoned Arizona Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
If you have been terminated for filing a workers’ comp claim, you may have legal grounds to seek compensation against your employer for wrongful termination.
The workers’ compensation lawyers at Phillips Law Group know the ins and outs of Arizona’s workers’ compensation system and the state’s employment laws. We will work diligently to investigate your claim to determine if your termination is connected to your worker’s compensation claim.
Complete a Free Case Evaluation form to get started. Free consultation by phone. No fees to start your case and no fees unless we win your case.