After recovering from an injury, an employee is always scared they will be fired for missing so much time at work. But can employers fire employees after a workplace injury?
Contrary to employer belief, most employees want to get back to work as soon as possible after an injury. The last thing they want is to be fired and leave their family financially insecure. Luckily for employees, state and federal laws protect workers from unjust and illegal terminations based on breach of contract, employer retaliation, various forms of discrimination, and disability.
With certain exceptions, every state recognizes the “at-will” employment doctrine in which employment means that the employer and employee can terminate their working relationship at any time for just about any reason with or without cause. The reasons that an employee can be terminated in an at-will state are the following:
- Another position that accommodates the disabled employee is not open.
- If the employee is a key part of the small business and cannot operate without them.
- The worker no longer has the physical ability to continue their job.
- Suffering work performance after the employee comes back from injury.
- If refitting the entire workplace is too much of a financial hardship for the employer.
The keywords here, however, are “certain exceptions.” What are those exceptions?
Breach of Contract
Even in at-will employment, workers have a legal right not to be fired after returning from an on-the-job injury. Even if an employer made statements that inferred their employee’s job security, the employee may have the basis for a contract.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a prospective employee who is disabled. The ADA also makes it illegal for an employer to fire an employee who is disabled solely based on that disability that prevents them from immediately returning to work.
Unable to Accommodate Disabilities
There may be times when a disability prevents the employee from doing his or her job and firing that employee is the only course of action. The employer must make sure there are no other jobs for the employee which are not “duty prohibitive.” The employer must also make reasonable modifications like ramps, raised desks, lower shelving, et cetera, to accommodate the employee.
We at PMC Insurance Group are experts on workers’ compensation and will help you get the right policy so your clients can properly deal with disability claims and employees. To learn more about getting competitive coverage for your small business and construction clients, contact us today.