You shouldn’t get fired for filing a worker’s compensation claim. In fact, it’s “illegal for an employer to harass, discharge, refuse to rehire, or discriminate in any way against an employee for exercising his or her rights under the law to file a claim,” (Workers’ Compensation Handbook for 2013, Section 2, Paragraph 10, p. 7). If an employer does this, it could result in the employee having a right to file a separate suit for damages for wrongful termination. However, an employee with a pending workers’ compensation claim may still be disciplined or fired for other valid reasons.
In other words, you shouldn’t get fired for filing a claim, but you could get fired for other reasons. A simple answer doesn’t work here, and as in so many other areas of life, what shouldn’t happen sometimes does happen. Let’s take a closer look at this.
Why You Can Be Fired for Valid Reasons
In Illinois there is an employment at will doctrine. That means that in the absence of a contract specifying a certain duration for employment, or a union contract, either party can stop the employment relationship for any reason, or for no reason at all. It’s difficult to know your rights if you believe you’ve been fired for retaliation related to filing your worker’s compensation claim. It is best to consult an attorney to determine whether you have grounds for a wrongful termination case.
If You Get Fired
Even if you get fired for just reasons, your benefits should continue. In 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court ruling in Interstate Scaffolding Inc. v. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission laid an important foundation—a legal precedent. Even when an employee is fired for just cause (unrelated to the injury or the worker’s compensation claim), he or she is still entitled to benefits as long as the disability continues. Because of this ruling, there is less incentive for an employer to try to fire an employee for retaliation for filing a claim (or to avoid paying benefits).
So, the answer to the question, “Can they fire me for filing a worker’s compensation claim?” is “No.” But, they can fire you for “cause” unrelated to the injury. However, this ruling makes it less likely to happen.
If you have been fired after filing a worker’s compensation claim, it’s best to contact a qualified attorney, knowledgeable on all aspects of workers’ compensation claims.