No you cannot. It is against the law for an employer to fire workers simply because they have filed a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation claim. It is rare for an employer to make the mistake of telling an employee that they are being fired due to a workers’ compensation claim, because most employers are aware that this would likely lead to an employment discrimination lawsuit. However, if your employer terminates your employment and you suspect it is due to your workers’ compensation claim, you should try to gather evidence to prove your suspicion.
Can You Lose Your Job if You’re Permanently Injured?
Nonetheless, if you are on disability for an extended period of time, there is a chance you may be replaced and your job will not remain available for you. Employers are not required to hold your job for you while you recover, although some do. In such a case, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you are not receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Unfortunately, unless you are a union member or have an employment contract your receipt of workers’ compensation benefits does not necessarily protect your job or other employee benefits such as health insurance. As a result, if you are out of work and receiving workers’ compensation benefits, your employer may be able to fire you or lay you off if they cannot reasonable accommodate your physical restrictions. However, an employer cannot fire you or lay you off solely because you made a workers’ compensation claim.
What If My Doctor Says I Have Permanent Work Restrictions?
If you have fully recovered from your workplace injury or occupational disease, or have reached maximum medical improvement, you should discuss with your doctor whether you have any permanent work restrictions. If you have fully recovered, it is highly unlikely that you have any permanent work restrictions due to your work-related injury. To the extent you have any permanent work restrictions, you must discuss these restrictions with your employer. Your employer is required to make reasonable efforts to accommodate your new work restrictions so that you can perform your job. If your employer can reasonably accommodate you, your employer must accommodate you.
What Happens if I Can’t Return to My Job?
If your employer cannot accommodate your work restrictions after you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI), your employer is allowed to terminate your employment. This is typically the case where the nature of the job is such that someone with your restrictions simply cannot perform the job. If you physically cannot return to your job, your employer may terminate your employment.
Your employer has the option of offering you alternative, light duty work. Most often, this occurs when an employer offers you a different position in the company with less vigorous physical requirements.
In many cases, if you cannot return to your job, you are eligible for additional workers’ compensation benefits. This could include vocational retraining or potentially a pension through permanent and total disability benefits.
In addition, an employer does not have to maintain your health insurance or other benefits while you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits. You may, for example, receive what is called a COBRA Notice, allowing you to pay for medical insurance at your own expense. If you do, you should discuss this with your attorney.
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