One question you may have if awaiting a decision on a workers’ compensation benefits claim is whether you lose your benefits if you become laid off or fired from your job. In an ideal world, employers would not penalize or terminate workers who incur injuries from workplace accidents, but in the real world, it happens all the time. Usually, denials are to delay or deny benefit claims and discourage injured workers from appealing. Though your benefits involve a variety of factors, your employment status does not automatically disbar you from receiving benefits.
The conditions surrounding an employment layoff or termination can affect your right to continue receiving benefits. It is important for you to understand your obligations and how an employer’s actions may affect your workers’ compensation benefits.
Termination has just cause
By law, employers do not need a specific reason to justify employee terminations. Firings that occur after a workplace accident where you were in violation of company policy, i.e., drunk, high or under the influence of narcotics on the job, are sufficient to give employers just cause to deny or halt your claim for workers’ compensation benefits, even though your injuries were the result of a workplace accident.
Refusal to accept or perform job restrictions
Not all workers who sustain injuries in a work environment require time off to recover. Some employees recover enough so that they can perform modified job duties instead of their original work tasks. Part of the workers’ compensation benefits process involves you seeing a doctor and accepting work restrictions if your injuries are not disabling or too serious. If you refuse to perform those duties or ignore your physician’s care recommendations, you could end up losing your benefits.
However, if your refusal is due to an inability to perform those functions as outlined by your doctor and your employer ignores the restrictions, your right to receive benefits remains intact, even if your employer does not have just cause to fire you.
Benefits that stop because of termination are still appealable. Filing an appeal can preserve your right to compensation, prevent employment and workers’ compensation rights violations and keep your employer from taking advantage of the situation.