If you were hurt at work, the last thing you should worry about is whether your employer can fire you for filing an injury claim. Unfortunately, this is a real fear for many people hurt at work in North Carolina who deserve compensation.
The good news is that North Carolina law prohibits employers from firing employees simply for filing a workers’ comp claim. Unfortunately, however, these laws exist because in years past, some employers have tried to do just that.
The NC Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act Prevents Employers from Firing Employees for Certain Reasons
The NC Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA) stops employers from discriminating or taking any retaliatory action, including termination, against employeeswho file a workers’ comp claim. Below, we’ll take a look at what REDA covers and what it doesn’t.
You can’t be fired just for filing a workers’ comp claim, but you can be fired for…
Under the NC Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act, it’s illegal for an employer to fire you just because you file a workers’ comp claim. So, even if your employer is angry or upset that you filed a claim and dislikes you for doing so, they can’t legally fire you for that reason. However, it is not a REDA violation if the employer fires you if they can show they would have done so regardless of the filing of a workers’ compensation claim.
For instance, if you are no longer able to complete your regular job duties because of your injury, then your employer could fire you for being unable to do your job. This assumes that you could not do your job after the workplace injury, even with a reasonable accommodation (which involves questions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and is a separate area of employment law). Your employer may also fire you if you are healing from an injury, but will be out of work for an extended period of time that is not covered by your allotted sick time or leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (if you are eligible).
Generally speaking, if your position is left vacant long enough for it to negatively impact the business, your employer may fire you to replace you with someone who is able to work.
NC is a “Right to Work” State; Here’s What that Might Mean for You
About half of the states in the U.S. are “right to work” states, and North Carolina is one of them. Essentially, North Carolina workers are employed “at will,” meaning that when they accepted their job offer, they agreed to the following trade-off: the employee can quit their job at any time for any reason, and the employer can fire their employees at any time for any reason. If you’re confused, you’re not alone.
The exception to an employer being able to fire you for “any reason” is that it is illegal to fire an employee in violation of a state or federal law, which includes retaliation or discrimination based on protected rights. While it can be difficult to prove that the reason you are being fired is one of those two illegal reasons, it’s not impossible.
To make matters more contradictory, many employment contracts replace the “at-will” law. So if you agreed to a fixed term of employment, then it can be difficult to get out of that contract, even in an “at-will” state. The laws can seem to contradict themselves in certain cases, but a good lawyer can help you navigate the legal implications of your case.
If you are worried about filing a claim for an injury and are wondering if your employer can fire you for seeking workers’ comp, don’t let that keep you from exercising your right to workers’ comp. However, if you think your employer may be the type to retaliate against you for filing, then it is a good idea to keep track, in writing, of every piece of communication between you and your boss about the injury and following up on your workers’ comp claim.
That way, if your boss does end up firing you and you suspect it was out of retaliation, you can bring the supporting evidence you’ve collected to an attorney who can try to help you prove that your employer broke the law by firing you for a prohibited reason. A lawyer can also help you if you haven’t yet been fired, but feel that you might be soon.
Concerned you might be fired for filing workers’ comp? We can help.
Our Durham workers’ compensation attorneys have many years of experience handling workers’ comp cases. We can help protect your right to file a claim without fear of retaliation in North Carolina. If you do get fired, we can help you assess the reason and protect your rights if you get filed for a reason that is illegal.
As you saw above, North Carolina labor laws can be confusing and contradictory, and you shouldn’t have to figure out how to apply them to your situation by yourself.
That’s where we come in. Our team of attorneys is prepared to help with your case and protect your rights as a worker. We want you to be able to focus on resting, healing, and getting better after your injury, so let us handle the legal side. To get started, call us today at (919) 240-4054 to schedule a consultation and discuss your case with a lawyer.