Injured workers who are pursuing a workers’ compensation claim often ask me whether they can be terminated from employment for filing a claim. From a technical perspective, the answer is no. However, as a practical matter, it can happen.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Schick v. Shirey, 552 Pa. 590 (1998) looked at this very question.
It claimed that the employee has a claim against the employer if the employer terminates the employee for filing a claim under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The employer cannot retaliate against the injured worker for filing a workers’ compensation claim. It is important to know, however, that the Schick v. Shirey case presented a very clear-cut case.
Few cases present such a clear-cut example. In the Schick v. Shirey case, an employee returned to work after his injury and was told by the employer, in front of witnesses, that he was being terminated for filing a workers’ compensation claim. It was not difficult to prove that the basis for the termination was the injured worker pursuing a workers’ compensation claim.
In reality, most employers understand that it is an injured worker’s right to pursue a claim if they have been hurt at work. In those instances, the injured worker recovers and goes back to work full duty or in a limited duty capacity. The employment relationship continues unaffected by the work injury.
Sometimes, after an injured worker returns, previously acceptable work is inexplicably deemed sub-par or unacceptable. Issues, real or imagined, add up and the injured worker loses the job shortly after returning to work following the work injury.
Was the injured worker fired for pursuing a legitimate claim or for poor performance? To try and make the case that an injured worker was terminated for exercising his rights under the Workers’ Compensation Act can be difficult to prove in situations like this.
To summarize, an injured worker clearly has a claim against the employer if the employer takes adverse action against the employee in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Proving that the basis for the termination is retaliation, however, can be difficult.
If you have been hurt at work, don’t go at it alone. I have been representing injured workers for over 25 years and consultations are free. As always, no fee no recovery.
Contact me on my website, or call my office at 717-584-9429.