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Can You Be Fired For Being Injured on the Job?

Posted in on July 6, 2009

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For employees who get hurt on the job, workers’ compensation can provide welcome relief and deserved financial compensation. But what happens if you make a workers’ comp claim and then get fired? Can they do that?

Can an employer fire an employee for being hurt on the job? As an employee, you have the right to file a workers’ comp claim without fear of retaliation. Let our Denver workers’ compensation attorneys explain what you should know about retaliation and whether you can be fired for being hurt on the job.

Can You Be Fired for Getting Hurt on the Job?

No, you can’t be fired for getting hurt on the job. When you’re injured on the job, you have the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits. If you’re fired for seeking benefits, your employer has violated your rights. Even in states where employment is at-will, an employer can’t fire an employee for getting hurt on the job. If you’re fired for getting hurt on the job, you may deserve financial compensation.

Fired for Getting Hurt on the Job in Colorado

Colorado is an at-will state. Being an at-will state means that an employer can fire an employee for any reason. In turn, employees can leave their jobs at any time. Unless there’s an employment contract or collective bargaining employment in place between the parties, either party can end the working relationship at any time. The employee doesn’t have to do anything to deserve being fired.

However, employees have rights under Colorado workers’ compensation laws. You have a right to take time off work when you’re hurt on the job. You have the right to claim monetary payment through the workers’ compensation system. If you’re fired for getting injured on the job, you don’t fairly have the opportunity to exercise your rights. That’s why Colorado law prohibits an employer from firing a worker for being hurt on the job.

Can You Terminate an Employee While on Workers’ Comp?

You can terminate an employee for a valid reason while on workers’ comp. However, you can’t terminate an employee while on workers’ comp to punish them for making a claim. If an employer terminates a worker while the worker is on leave because of a qualifying injury, the question is whether the termination is a pretext because of the workers’ comp matter.

Generally, you can terminate an employee while on workers’ comp, but only for a valid reason, that’s not retaliation against the employee because they exercise their rights under workers’ compensation law.

What Happens If You Get Fired While on Workers’ Comp?

If you get fired while on workers’ comp, you may deserve financial compensation. You have the right to bring a lawsuit against your employer. You may even get your job back if you want it. The compensation that you can claim may include lost wages as well as pain and suffering. It’s up to you as the wrongfully fired employee to prove that the firing was in response to the workers’ comp claim.

Workers’ Compensation Fired While on Light Duty

Workers’ compensation fired while on light duty occurs when your employer terminates you when you have work restrictions because of a job-related illness or injury. While you’re on light duty, your employer may still fire you. In fact, in an at-will employment state, they don’t even have to prove that there’s just cause to fire you.

However, they can’t fire you because you have work restrictions. If your employer creates a pretext to fire you while on light duty for workers’ compensation, your employer is in violation of the law. Workers’ compensation fired while on light duty is grounds for a legal claim for monetary compensation.

Colorado Workers’ Compensation Retaliation Laws

Colorado’s workers’ compensation laws are found in Colorado Revised Statutes 8-40-101 to 8-66-112 [1]. But Colorado’s workers’ compensation retaliation laws are based on common law. The law itself doesn’t make it illegal to retaliate against a worker for being hurt on the job.

Instead, it’s the courts who declared that it’s against the law to fire someone for getting hurt at work. The courts ruled that for workers’ compensation laws to have any meaning, employers can’t fire workers who choose to exercise their rights.

Lathrop v. Entenmann’s, Inc., Colorado

Lathrop v. Entenmann’s, Inc [2] is one Colorado case that talks about employer retaliation for on the job injuries. In the Lathrop case, the court ruled that it’s against public policy to allow employers to fire employees who are hurt at work or because of work. The defendant was a bakery. The bakery had a system that allowed employees to bid for open positions based on seniority.

The plaintiff suffered an industrial injury. He received workers’ compensation. Medical treatment providers authorized the worker for light duty. When he presented the bakery with his light-duty authorization, they told him he could no longer work there.

The Colorado court said that retaliation is not a contractual issue but a public policy issue. They noted that an employer incurs legal liability by discharging an employee in violation of public policy if there is a statute that creates a right or duty. They went on to say that workers’ compensation creates a right in that employees may request compensation after suffering a workplace injury. The Colorado court said that to allow an employer to terminate an employee for exercising their workers’ compensation rights would be to allow coercion and duress. Allowing retaliation would discourage workers from seeking the benefits that they deserve under workers’ compensation laws.

Contact Our Colorado Attorneys for Workers’ Compensation

Our Colorado attorneys for workers’ compensation retaliation fight on behalf of employees. If you’re fired when you’re hurt on the job, you may deserve financial compensation. Let our employment law attorneys in Colorado evaluate your case and help you fight for justice.

Come see why justice is our passion. Call today to connect immediately with a member of our legal team. Your call is free. We don’t stop until you receive justice. We look forward to meeting you.

Sources

[1] C.R.S. 8-40-101. Workers’ Compensation Act of Colorado.

[2] Lathrop v. Entenmann’s, Inc., 770 P.2d 1367 (Colo. App. 1989)

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Super Lawyers - Kyle Bachus
Million Dollar Advocates Forum
Martindale-Hubbell Peer Rated for Highest Level of Professional Excellence
Super Lawyers - Darin Schanker
The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Lawyer
5280 Top Lawyers of Denver