| Read Time: 4 minutes | Workers Compensation Law
can you be fired for filing a workers compensation claim

You cannot legally be fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim in North Carolina. Unfortunately, the law does not stop some employers from trying, despite the fact that suffering an injury on the job can change your life in an instant. Workers’ compensation coverage exists to help support you as you navigate your new reality and work to get control of your life back. You have the right to file for workers’ comp, and an employer cannot fire you for it.

The lawyers at EMP Law can help if you have been fired after filing a workers’ comp claim or if your employer has threatened to fire you if you file a claim. At EMP Law, we are passionate about protecting our clients’ rights, especially in the face of complex power dynamics like those between employer and employee. Our skilled, determined, and experienced Winston-Salem and Charlotte employment lawyers can fight for you.

Give us a call at (336) 724-2828 or send an online message today for assistance.

Can You Be Fired for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Under North Carolina’s Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA), you cannot be fired for filing a workers’ comp claim. However, many employers ignore the law, so if you are terminated, you may have a claim for retaliation under REDA and a common law claim for wrongful discharge.

Retaliation

REDA outlaws employer retaliation against employees who participate in several claim or complaint processes primarily centering around wage and safety issues. The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act is first on the list of rights employers cannot fire employees for exercising.

To win a case of retaliation, you need to prove:

  • You engaged in protected activity;
  • Your employer took adverse action against you; and 
  • The employer took action against you because you engaged in protected activity.

Under REDA, you must have also acted in good faith. Your employer has the chance to prove it would have taken the same action if you had not filed the workers’ compensation claim.

Protected activity

You engage in protected activity when you assert certain rights guaranteed to you by the law. Filing a workers’ compensation claim qualifies. Threatening to file a workers’ comp claim or otherwise participating in the workers’ comp process, like providing information about someone else’s claim, also qualify. 

Adverse action

The quintessential example of an adverse action is termination, but other examples include:

  • Pay reduction,
  • Modified hours,
  • Demotion, and
  • Suspension.

Even if you were not fired, you may still have a retaliation claim.

Causation

For your termination to be illegal, you filing for workers’ compensation must have been a substantial factor in the decision to fire you. Some questions can help narrow down what causation means. “Can you get fired on workers’ comp?” The answer depends on the other circumstances in the case. “Can you be fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim?” The answer is clear: you legally cannot. 

Good faith

You act in good faith when you file a workers’ compensation claim if you genuinely believe there is a reasonable chance you have a claim. You do not have to be confident in your success, but you cannot file a baseless claim. 

Wrongful Termination

Legal claims that originate from court cases, instead of statutes, are known as “common law” claims. If you are fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim, you may have a common law claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. This legal claim is designed to support the policies the government sets by passing particular laws.

Wrongful discharge in violation of public policy can apply if you are fired for asserting rights under North Carolina law, like the right to file a workers’ compensation claim. Proving wrongful termination in violation of public policy based on a workers’ compensation claim is similar to proving a REDA retaliation case: you have to show you were terminated because you engaged in the protected activity of filing a workers’ compensation claim. 

What Can I Do If I Got Injured at Work and They Fired Me?

If your employer fires you for filing a workers’ compensation claim or you suspect they might, seek the help of an attorney as soon as possible. To pursue a retaliation claim, you have to file a complaint with the North Carolina Employment Discrimination Bureau within 180 days of the date you experienced the adverse action.

After you file your complaint, the board will investigate your claims. If it determines that you were retaliated against, it will attempt to work with you and the employer to resolve the issue. If the board does not conclude your employer retaliated against you or cannot resolve the dispute, you can obtain a right-to-sue letter. This letter allows you to file a lawsuit against your employer in court.

What Remedies Are Available?

Under REDA, you can request several remedies, including:

  • An injunction to prevent your employer from further misconduct;
  • Reinstatement to your position, including earned benefits and seniority; and
  • Lost wages, benefits, and other economic losses caused by the retaliation.

You can generally recover damages equal to the harm the employer caused to you.

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

You cannot legally be fired for filing a workers’ comp claim, but can you get fired while on workers’ comp? Unfortunately, you can be fired while on workers’ comp. 

Your options depend on the reason you were fired. If you were fired because of your workers’ comp claim, you can file a complaint with the government and may be able to continue receiving benefits. Note that you can also file a complaint if you believe you were terminated based on a temporary or permanent disability.

However, if you were terminated for misconduct, your workers’ compensation benefits may be terminated as well. And if you were fired for reasons that are unrelated to misconduct or protected activity, like downsizing, your benefits may continue depending on the other circumstances.

Reach Out to an Experienced North Carolina Employment Attorney

Being fired for exercising your rights is an injustice that need not go unchallenged. Contact EMP Law online or call (336) 724-2828 to discuss how we can help you stand up against such serious mistreatment. We can help you hold your employer accountable and fight to collect damages to help you recover from your work-related injury.

Author Photo

Griff is dedicated to assisting individuals who need assistance with workers' compensation issues, who are the victims of discrimination, or who have suffered a serious injury. He practices primarily in the areas of workers’ compensation, employment, civil rights, and mediation.

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