What happens to my job if I file an injury claim?
I’m going to talk to you now about getting fired from your job as it relates to making a Workers Comp claim. One of the biggest concerns that people have when they do talk to me, either on the phone or when they come in to see me for a free consultation is, “If I pursue this claim, can I be fired?”
For most people, they can still be fired if they pursue a Workers Comp claim. It doesn’t mean that the firing was okay. It may have been a wrongful termination, but it’s a separate issue from whether or not the employer has the right to fire them in the first place.
One of the things that we do when someone comes in to see us, when I’m talking to someone about their claim or their potential claim, one of the things that we always talk about is, “All right. Let’s stop talking about the Workers Comp claim for a minute and talk about what can happen to your job if you pursue this claim, if you pursue the benefits, or you pursue whatever it is they’re denying, whatever it is they don’t want to do that you’ve come to see me about.
Whether it’s a surgery or switching doctors or some benefits that are owed. If you do something about it, can they fire you?”
In North Carolina, for most people unless you’re in a union or you’re a tenured teacher or you are some sort of civil servant that has some basic rights in those jobs to a hearing or to some sort of process before you’re fired, most people can be fired at will in North Carolina.
This is one of the most important decisions to make. We’ll help guide you through this difficult time – Kevin Jones
It doesn’t mean that it was okay for them to do that, but what I always remind people in those circumstances is that, “Yes, you’re still fired.” You may have to sit down with the employment lawyer and talk about a claim for a wrongful firing, but in the first instance, you’re still fired. What does that mean as far as your Workers Comp claim?
Sometimes it’s a really tough decision for people. You’re looking at, “Okay. Here’s what Workers Comp has refused to do that they should be doing and what I’m owed for this and what they’re supposed to take care of medically, disability wise and whatever,” versus, “Am I going to burn a bridge with that employer?”
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That’s not to say you will. Most of the time, people don’t. But, I cannot ever say to someone that they’re not going to lose their job just because they’ve got a Workers Comp claim.
A lot of people are under that mistaken impression that, “Well, I’ve got a Workers Comp claim pending so they can’t fire me.”
No. That’s not the case. A person can be fired. There may very well be a claim that can be pursued for that termination, but in the meantime, you don’t have a job. So, we always consider that when we meet with people.
When I talk to people about this, “Okay, here’s what can happen.”
Here’s the worst case scenario for you in the short term while we’re fighting about what comp benefits you’re owed and what rights you have right now versus what rights you may have if we have to go to court on certain parts of the claim to pursue, to recover.
How long that probably will take, so you can make an informed decision about what you want to do.
Unfortunately, it’s the kind of thing where some people in the end decide, “I know that I’m owed this because of my Workers Comp claim, but I’m not going to pursue it, because I can’t lose this job because of the benefits and because of my family. I’m just going to have to eat it and pay the money. I’m not going to pursue this claim, even though I know this is what I’m supposed to get, because I know that in the meantime, this employer is going to do this bad thing and I’m going to be in for a long fight in order to recover anything for being fired, if I can.”
Workers Compensation Act
We always have that conversation at the outset, when I have somebody who’s come in the door and that’s a very real concern. My job is to give you information so that you can make an informed decision.
Whatever that decision is, it’s your decision. If you decide that you do not want to pursue the Workers Comp claim because of these other outside concerns, I understand that.
If you decide that you do want to pursue the claim, I will do everything I can to make sure that you recover what you’re entitled to recover and that the defendants are made to pay for whatever wrong they’ve done to you—when I say defendants, I mean an employer—should you get fired.
That’s always a tough part of this. The good thing is you can come in, meet with me. It’s a free consultation. You don’t have to make any decisions beforehand. I’m never going to pressure you into making a decision. It’s your call.
You may come in, meet with me, decide not to do something about it and six months later, I get a call, “I’m ready to go forward with this.” As long as it’s not too late, then I’m happy to help at that point.
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