Can I Be Fired from My Job for Filing a Workers' Comp Claim in North Carolina?

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If you were hurt on the job in North Carolina, you should not have to worry about whether filing a workers’ compensation claim will result in your termination. Can I be fired for filing a workers’ comp claim in NC? In short, the answer is no – at least not legally. There are laws in place in our state to protect you from this very behavior. Yet if you believe you have been wrongfully terminated it will be important to work with experienced counsel who can help to prove that your employer illegally retaliated against you.

If you believe you were terminated because you filed a workers’ compensation claim, you need an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Attorneys Robert “Chip” Younce Jr. and David Vtipil are both North Carolina board certified workers’ compensation specialists who are ready to discuss your legal options in a free and confidential consultation.

Types of Employment and Impacts on North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claims

Employees typically fall into one of two categories: at-will employees or contracted employees. Regardless of your employment status, you should be absolutely clear about the fact that your employer cannot terminate you in retaliation for you seeking workers’ compensation benefits.

At the same time, depending upon your classification as an employee, it may be more difficult to prove why your employer decided to fire you. To better understand what we mean, let us examine the two different types of employment:

  • At-will employees – When you are an at-will employee, this means that you do not have a specific employment contract with your employer, and you are essentially working at the will of the employer. An at-will employee can be terminated for many different reasons, ranging from inadequate performance of work duties to financial difficulties within the company (we typically think of the latter as being “laid off”). In brief, your workplace performance can be stellar, and your employer can still legally terminate you. If you are not certain whether you are an at-will employee or a contracted employee, it is more likely that you are an at will employee.
  • Contracted employees – Unlike an at-will employee, contracted employees tend to have more rights when it comes to workplace termination. While discriminatory or retaliatory termination is illegal regardless of whether you are an at-will employee or a contracted employee, many contracted employees have specific clauses in their employment contracts that clarify when and how they can be terminated. In some cases, an employment contract may permit an employer to fire a worker if that worker cannot do her job for an extended period of time. If you do get hurt at work and file a workers’ compensation claim, and you are unable to work for an extended period of time, it may be legal for an employer to terminate you.

While an employer may not retaliate against an at will employee who files a workers’ compensation claim, the employer’s motive for the termination can be more difficult to prove. To be sure, an employer is unlikely to admit that she or he terminated an employee in retaliation for that worker filing a workers’ compensation claim. For contracted employees, however, it may be easier to prove that the termination was retaliatory.

REDA: What to Do If You Are Wrongfully Terminated

If you have been wrongfully terminated as a result of filing a workers’ compensation claim, you should know that the North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA) is in place precisely to protect people just like yourself. This act, which is specific to North Carolina, includes elements from a number of important federal laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Although REDA exists to protect employees in North Carolina who get hurt on the job, sometimes employers still terminate employees who have filed workers’ compensation claims. In many cases, these employers allege that they did not fire the employee because they filed for workers’ compensation benefits, but for another reason.

Other Laws that Help Safeguard Your Job in North Carolina

In addition to REDA, there are other federal protections that may be able to help safeguard your job. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee on the basis of the employee’s disability. The ADA may come into play in a case where an employee is fired after filing a workers’ compensation claim because the ADA also prohibits an employer from terminating a worker on the basis of a disability. If you sustain a serious injury at work that results in a physical disability, you may be able to invoke the ADA if your employer terminates you on the basis of your disability.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) also permits certain employees to take leave from work for certain medical reasons. In particular, the FMLA permits an eligible employee with a “serious health condition” that prevents the employee from performing the essential functions of his or her job to take 12 workweeks of unpaid leave. If you are hurt at work and you have filed a workers’ compensation claim, you may be able to take leave from work due to your injury without the risk of being terminated.

How Our Raleigh Law Firm Can Help with Your Case

Were you recently terminated from your job in North Carolina after filing a workers’ compensation claim? There are laws in place in our state to protect employees from retaliation connected to workplace injuries and seeking workers’ compensation benefits. It is important to understand that, if you believe you were wrongfully terminated in retaliation for your decision to file a workers’ compensation claim, you must file a REDA claim within 180 days of the date you were fired.

It is extremely important to reach out to an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney to learn more about filing a REDA claim. Contact Younce, Vtipil, & Baznik, P.A., today to learn more about how we can assist you with your case.