Yes, workers can be terminated while on workers’ compensation. There is no restriction on laying an employee off, even if that employee was injured while on the job and has filed for workers’ compensation benefits. However, there are some limitations on an employer’s right, which our Rutland workers’ compensation attorneys are familiar with.
You Cannot Be Terminated for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim
It is illegal to discriminate against workers in Vermont. This discrimination includes firing someone for exercising a right to government benefits, which includes workers’ compensation. The legal term for this type of discrimination is “retaliation.” In sum, it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against you for simply filing a claim or reporting an accident.
However, an employer can still terminate an employee provided there are legitimate reasons. The key is motivation. One reason might be that an employer needs to hire someone who can actually do the job while you are at home recovering. This is not technically retaliation.
The intent is hard to uncover and harder to prove. Few employers will admit outright that they are retaliating against a worker, but if they did — or if there is other strong evidence to suggest retaliation — you may be eligible to file a lawsuit.
You Have a Right to Reinstatement
21 V.S.A. §643b gives workers the right to be reinstated to their position if they recover from their injuries within 2 years of an accident-related injury. Many people will point to this law as proof that you “can’t be terminated.”
The law is much more limited than some people assume, however. According to the law, an employee must have recovered from their disability before they can request reinstatement. Under the statute, this means you can perform your old job or a suitable, alternative job safely. If you are still considered to be disabled and are not recovered, you are not entitled to reinstatement.
An employee must also keep their employer updated on their recovery. This means regular contact where you express interest in returning and provide updates on your condition. Don’t go silent for 2 years and then suddenly show up demanding a job.
The right is only a right to be “rehired.” You can still be let go by your employer. So this is not a limitation on termination. Additionally, the law only covers employers that regularly employ 10 or more workers. Very small employers are not included.
You Might Have Medical Leave Rights
The Family and Medical Leave Act limits your employer’s ability to fire you if you qualify to take time off due to an injury. Under the law, an employer must leave the job open for up to 12 weeks. However, the law does not apply to all employers. An employee must have worked with the company for a certain number of hours to gain protection under the law.
Still, medical leave laws provide a crucial source of protection for employees who qualify. If you can recover in a timely manner, you should not be let go.
Contact a Vermont Workers’ Compensation Attorney to Learn More
At Larson & Gallivan Law, we help workers when no one else will. Contact us today to learn more about job protections when on workers’ compensation.
Call Today! (802) 779-9771