Can You Lose Your Job While On Workers Compensation?
Workplace-related injuries or incidents are more common than they appear. For example, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there were 5,333 accidental deaths on the job site throughout 2019, averaging out to 100 deaths per week and 15 per day nationally.
Thankfully not all workplace accidents are fatal, but injuries sustained due to a workplace accident are still life-changing for the victim(s). Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for victims of workplace injuries to feel disempowered and afraid to file for workers compensation, or even to raise the incident to their superiors for fear of backlash.
The question is what are your rights if you’ve been the victim of a workplace-related injury. Can your employer fire or reprimand you for submitting a workers compensation claim?
Your rights to workers compensation
Every state and jurisdiction has its own workers compensation laws, which exist in the form of various statues. But all states do agree that workers are entitled to compensation for any injuries, illnesses, or disruptions to their quality of life sustained on the job site. It’s just a matter of how those laws are represented that vary from state to state.
Take the state of South Carolina as an example. The South Carolina Workers Compensation Act clearly states that workers are entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost time, and permanent disability benefits if any permanent injury is caused by a work accident.
However, there are some rules that employees must follow. Any injuries must be reported to a supervisor, and employers have the right to select the doctor any injured employee will see. If employees visit a doctor before informing the employer about the injury, an argument can be made to deny the employee compensation for those medical expenses.
What about job security?
It is definitively against the law for an employer to fire an injured employee in retaliation for the filing of a workers compensation claim. As an injured employee, your rights to a safe and secure work environment were violated due to the incident. The cost to treat the injury should not be yours to bear, and you can expect to miss time at work while undergoing recovery.
A workplace injury disrupts your ability to maintain a certain quality of life. For that reason, you’re entitled to file for workers compensation without fear of losing your job under the law.
There is one caveat to the rule. Like all states, except for Montana, South Carolina is an “at-will employment” state. At-will means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, except an illegal one, or for no reason without incurring legal liability.
What should you do if your job security is threatened?
Since there are legal loopholes around the South Carolina Workers Compensation Act, it’s important that you protect your own interests while filing a workers compensation claim. Consult with an experienced workers compensation attorney to gain a better understanding of the laws, and also so that you can learn more about your rights as a citizen and an employee.
A workers compensation lawyer will know how to build a proper case for your claim so that you have the best chance of acquiring the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Additionally, since your attorney will have a thorough knowledge of the legal system, you’ll also be able to challenge an employer who threatens your job security while the claim process is underway.
An employer may cite any possible reason to terminate your employment, but the overlap with a workers compensation claim will be suspicious. A good attorney will be able to thread those two incidents and present evidence to a court that your rights as an employee were violated not only during the events that caused the injury, but also as a result of filing for rightful compensation for that injury.