If an employee gets injured on the job, employers have a duty to compensate them for lost wages. They also have a duty to insure medical benefits to those injured on their property. The same goes for any illnesses obtained on the job. Unfortunately, many obstacles may come when trying to file a workers compensation claim. One of these is workers compensation retaliation.
Workers compensation retaliation occurs when an employer doesn’t uphold their duty of providing these benefits. They then attempt to punish an employee for exercising their rights to file a claim. If you became injured on the job, it’s important to recognize the signs of retaliation. This post by The Manassas Law Group will explain what workers compensation retaliation is and how to fight back against it.
What Is Workers Compensation?
First, we’ll explain the basics of workers compensation. When you are first hired for a job, you should be aware of any benefits your employer provides. One of these is workers compensation. It’s required that employers in the U.S. provide this coverage to their employees.This includes minors, part-time workers and non-US citizens.
Though all employers must provide workers compensation, the laws vary by state. In Virginia, any business that employs two or more people must carry workers comp coverage.
There are three ways that workers compensation helps protect businesses. The most obvious is to cover employee’s workplace injuries or illnesses. The second is to keep the business in line with state laws and regulations. Finally, it helps protect businesses from lawsuits.
Some of what workers comp benefits cover include:
- Medical expenses
- Any bills or expenses needed to treat an injured or ill employee.
- Lost wages
- Any payment missed by an injured or ill employee’s time off while they recover.
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Ongoing care needed to help injured or ill employees return to work.
- Death benefits
- Coverage of funeral costs if an employee dies in a workplace incident.
What Is Workers Compensation Retaliation?
Now that you know what workers compensation is, let’s dive into retaliation. Retaliation against employees who file a workers comp claim is in violation of the law. The Virginia Code § 65.2-308 states that the discharge of an employee who has filed or intends to file a workers comp claim is illegal. That doesn’t mean that businesses don’t try to get around it, though.
As much as you might do for the company you work for, their priority is to make and save money. Paid time off and extra medical expenses don’t exactly save them money. This is why some employers might retaliate against a workers compensation claim.
If you file a workers comp claim and you’re denied or punished by your employer, you can file a lawsuit. Your employers have the right to defend themselves, though. If they are able to prove you filed a false claim, you are no longer protected by this law.
The way to determine whether the act was retaliation depends on the fairness of it. It also depends on what you are able to prove. Did your employer have another reason for penalizing you? Was it fair of them to take this action? Were other employees affected by the act, or were you singled out? All these questions help prove the presence of retaliation.
What Are Some Signs Of Workers Compensation Retaliation?
There are many signs that a company might be retaliating against you. Retaliation may look like any negative action taken against you for filing a workers comp claim. Even if you have not yet filed a claim but are eligible to, here are some things to look out for:
- Cutting hours for an hourly worker.
- A reduction in pay.
- Demoting an employee after they received injuries.
- Transferring an employee after they received injuries.
- Disciplining an employee for filing a claim.
- Threatening or intimidating an employee for filing a claim.
- Termination of employment.
- Giving negative reviews or write ups to an employee.
If an employer suspects you are going to file a claim and retaliates before you are able to, you are still protected. Employees are not invincible in these situations, though. It all depends what you can prove versus what your employer can prove. The employer has the same right to representation as you do. This is why it is important to have an experienced legal team on your side who will fight to prove your claim.
Can You Terminate An Employee On Workers Compensation?
One of the most obvious forms of workers compensation retaliation is termination. It is against the law to fire an employee for filing a claim. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
If an employer fires you before or after you file a claim, you might have a strong case. Again, it comes down to what you are able to prove.
Even if your employer has violated your rights by firing you, they may have ways to protect themselves. For example, they might argue that you were already in line for firing or demotion. They might also try to prove your claim was fraudulent.
The same goes for if your employer retaliated by cutting your pay instead of terminating you. They may try to argue that everyone received pay cuts. That your pay reduction was not specific to you, but a cost-saving measure.
How Can I Prove Workers Compensation Retaliation?
If you feel you were a victim of workers comp retaliation, there are ways to go about proving it. You’ll want to save any evidence you can that proved some kind of discrimination. This might include emails, voicemails, or a record of conversation between you and your employer.
To win a case of workers comp retaliation, you generally must prove the following:
- That you were entitled to receive workers compensation benefits.
- That you became ill or injured on the job and filed (or intended to file) a claim.
- That your employer violated the terms of your employment.
- Any negative action taken against you, like a pay cut or termination.
- That your employer took negative actions as a result of your compensation claim.
If you and your attorney are able to prove these things in court, you have a high chance at winning your case. You may then receive appropriate relief for damages. These damages include loss of wages and attorney fees.
In the state of Virginia, your employer must rehire you to your original position if found guilty. You will also receive back pay plus interest at the rate of judgement.
If you believe you’re a victim of workers compensation retaliation, let us know. The attorneys at The Manassas Law Group are here to fight for your rights. We will help you in proving retaliation and receiving the benefits you deserve. Give us a call at 703-361-8246 or visit our website to arrange a consultation.