Can I Legally Be Fired for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
If you’ve been injured on the job in Orlando, there is a good chance that you qualify for workers’ compensation under Florida law. The law entitles most employees to benefits, and eligible employees can file regardless of how they got injured—with only limited exceptions for things like intentionally injuring yourself or being drunk on the job.
But, even if you qualify for workers’ compensation, you might still be concerned about filing a claim. Specifically, you might be concerned that your employer will fire you if you file for benefits. Fortunately, Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law provides clear protections in this regard.
The Orlando workers’ compensation lawyers at Colling Gilbert Wright are committed to helping injured workers recover justice after an on-the-job injury, our experienced legal team can help.
Florida Law Prohibits Employers from Firing Employees for Seeking Workers’ Compensation Benefits
In Florida, it is illegal for employers to fire employees for seeking workers’ compensation benefits. Section 440.205 of the Workers’ Compensation Law states: “No employer shall discharge, threaten to discharge, intimidate, or coerce any employee by reason of such employee’s valid claim for compensation or attempt to claim compensation under the Workers’ Compensation Law.”
Firing an employee because the employee files for workers’ compensation benefits is considered a form of retaliation. To establish a claim for retaliation under Section 440.205, an employee must be able to prove that:
- The employee engaged in a “protected activity” (i.e., the employee exercised his or her right to file for workers’ compensation benefits);
- The employee experienced adverse employment action (i.e., the employee was fired) after engaging in the protected activity; and,
- There was a “causal link” between the employee’s protected activity and the adverse employment action.
The third factor—the “causal link”—is extremely important. Filing for workers’ compensation does not provide absolute protection against losing your job. If your employer fires you for reasons unrelated to your workers’ compensation claim (i.e., due to a reduction in force), this is not retaliation even if it happens shortly after you file for benefits.
How can employees prove this “causal link”? In most cases, there isn’t a smoking gun. Most employers know not to send emails that say, “Let’s terminate this person since they filed for workers’ compensation benefits.” Instead, establishing a workers’ compensation retaliation claim typically requires circumstantial evidence such as:
- Efforts to interfere with the employee’s attempt to file for benefits (i.e., pressuring the employee not to seek treatment or take time off from work);
- A short amount of time between when the employee files for benefits and when the employee gets fired;
- Statements about how much the employee’s claim is going to cost or harm the company;
- A history of retaliatory employment practices; and/or,
- A lack of any valid explanation for the employee’s firing.
These are just examples. When you hire a lawyer to represent you, your lawyer will thoroughly examine all potential sources of evidence in order to determine how he or she can prove your claim.
What Happens if You Get Fired After Filing for Workers’ Compensation in Florida?
Let’s say your employer violates Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law and terminates you based on your decision to file for benefits. What happens next?
The simple answer is that nothing will happen unless you take legal action. Too often, employers get away with engaging in retaliatory practices. Either they intimidate their employees with threats of negative recommendations, or employees simply don’t know how to assert their legal rights.
But, if you believe that you are a victim of workers’ compensation retaliation, you can—and should—take action. Your rights are clear under Florida law. Not only are you entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits for your injury, but you can also seek additional damages based on your employer’s wrongful conduct. Depending on the circumstances of your case, an Orlando workers’ compensation lawyer may be able to help you recover:
- Back pay
- Future loss of income
- Emotional distress damages
- Punitive damages
If you are concerned about losing your job if you file for benefits, or if you have recently lost your job after seeking workers’ compensation, you should speak with a lawyer promptly. An experienced Orlando workers’ compensation lawyer will be able to help protect your rights and make sure you receive the full benefits and/or damages you deserve.
Would you like help asserting your legal rights under Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law? If so, we encourage you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. To discuss your situation with an Orlando workers’ compensation lawyer in confidence, call (800) 766-1000 or tell us how we can help online today.