Is your workers’ comp claim invalid if you’ve been wrongfully terminated in GA?
Some states provide workers with extensive legal protection against wrongful termination. Unfortunately, employment in Georgia is “at will.” This means employers may terminate their employees for nearly any reason without legal repercussions.
The few restrictions on firing and hiring in Georgia are those enumerated in the Equal Employment Opportunity Employment law. One such protection is that employers can’t legally fire an employee for retaliatory reasons.
Wrongful termination and retaliation in Georgia
Occasionally, an employer may fire a worker solely because they filed a workers’ compensation claim for a work-related injury. Georgia law classifies firing a worker in response to their claim as “wrongful termination for the purpose of retaliation.” Workers in Georgia may file a claim against their employers if they believe their employer fired them out of retaliation.
Our Georgia workers’ rights lawyers can help you better understand the complexities that surround wrongful termination and workers’ compensation, and determine if you are eligible to file a claim. Although Georgia law offers workers protection from wrongful termination, proving the employer’s retaliatory intent can be a challenge.
Were you fired for retaliation?
If your employer fired you after you filed for workers’ comp benefits, you may suspect the firing was in retaliation. However, proving an employer’s intent requires evidence. There are signs your lawyer can present in court to support your case.
For example, timing is often critical in wrongful termination cases. If your employer fired you within days or weeks of you initiating your workers’ compensation claim, this may be used as evidence that your employer fired you in retaliation.
Similarly, if you noticed your managers began behaving differently or strangely toward you within days or weeks of you filing your claim, chances are your employer fired you with retaliatory intent.
Your employer may have given a different reason for firing you. If the reason seems unclear, chances are you were likely wrongfully terminated. Signs that point to unclear reasoning include refusal to discuss the reason for the termination with you or explanations that change each time your employer writes a report or otherwise communicates regarding firing you.
Whether you recognize these signs or if you suspect your firing was wrongful for other reasons, a lawyer can help.
How to establish a claim for retaliatory firing
Workers who believe their employers have fired them in retaliation for filing a workers’ comp claim must generally meet 4 requirements:
- The worker must have been eligible for workers’ comp at the time of termination.
- The worker must have filed a workers’ comp claim or otherwise begun the filing process.
- The employer must have terminated, threatened to terminate or otherwise acted against the injured worker.
- The employer must have terminated the worker in response to the worker filing a workers’ comp claim.
Meeting these requirements can be a difficult task. Our Georgia workers’ compensation attorneys can work with you to gather the important facts of your case, work diligently to gather evidence and present your case before a judge.
Wrongful termination while on light duty
In some cases, an injured worker’s doctor may grant you clearance to return to work on light duty. Also referred to as “modified” duty, light duty is a temporary work adjustment the employer makes to accommodate a worker’s need while recovering from a work-related illness or injury.
A light work modification allows the worker to continue working within their limits. The revised job duties may be a limited version of the injured worker’s original job, or the worker may receive an entirely different job while they heal from the injury. Light work may lessen or completely eliminate an injured employee’s workers’ compensation benefits.
You may be wondering:
Can you be laid off while on light duty?
The short answer is yes. However, if your employer fires you while you are on modified duty, you may have legal recourse.
Getting fired while on workers’ compensation
If you believe your employer behaves differently toward you because you initiated a claim for workers’ compensation, there are some steps you can take to decrease the likelihood of your employer firing you.
- Avoid giving your employer other reasons to fire you (show up to work on time, be respectful, etc.).
- Report to work on time and perform your job duties to the best of your ability.
- Don’t become involved in unnecessary conflict in the workplace.
Because Georgia is an “at-will” employment state, even the slightest complaint on your report can create the appearance that your employer fired you for a legally permissible reason—even if the firing was really in response to your workers’ compensation claim.
When to hire a Georgia attorney
Recovering from a workplace injury requires enough energy, focus and patience. We understand the last thing you want to worry about is losing your job.
If your employer has fired you or is threatening to hire you for filing a workers’ comp claim, we can help you fight back. Firing or threatening to fire injured workers to discourage them from filing a workers’ comp claim is illegal in Georgia.