Georgia Workers’ Compensation Blog, October 2015
Nathan E. Woody, CORALES & WOODY, LLC.
TERMINATION AFTER A WORK INJURY
If you are injured at work in Georgia, and terminated from your job while on work restrictions, your case will fall into a difficult category of claims where the reason or cause for your termination will partially decide if workers’ compensation benefits are provided to you. Once you have determined your employer’s cause for terminating you, there may be an additional hurdle of showing a diligent job search in order to qualify for benefits, which we will cover next time. For now, let’s look at the issue of the termination further.
No, Georgia Does Not Allow a Separate Lawsuit for “Retaliation.”
In some states, including neighboring states like Florida and Alabama, if you are injured at work and your employer responds by terminating you, you can sue them for retaliatory termination. Think of it like a discrimination case where state law prohibits discrimination against employees who get hurt at work (rather than discrimination based upon gender, race, age, etc., protected by federal employment law). While this is a great way to protect workers’ rights, Georgia does not have this law. Thus, if your employer terminates you after your work injury, your only option is to hire a lawyer and fight for what you can get under workers’ compensation.
If You Are Terminated From Your Job While On Work Restrictions or “Light Duty” in Georgia, Workers’ Compensation Probably Will Not Start Paying You Weekly Checks Without a Judicial Order.
The key question here is: “Why were you terminated?” If your employer can point to a reason – ANY REASON – for terminating you, other than your workers’ compensation claim, you can bet that their workers’ compensation insurance carrier will not start paying you benefits until they are taken to court and ordered to do so by a judge. For instance, if your employer claims that your performance is poor, or that you have been late to work, or even that you simply have a bad attitude at work – any reason other than your work injury – they will argue that you are not automatically entitled to weekly workers’ compensation checks. Here, it is important to understand that your employer will view many issues that you believe are related to your work injury as unrelated. For instance, if you are on a medicine that makes it difficult to focus at work, your employer may terminate you for “poor performance” when you make mistakes. Of course, you see this as directly related to your injury, but your employer may not. Another example would be if you begin missing work due to doctor and physical therapy appointments. Your employer may argue that they did not know about an appointment or appointments in advance, and cite you for attendance issues or tardiness. You will naturally argue that you never would have missed that time but for your work injury. But there are always two sides to every story.
THE TAKE AWAY:
If you are fired from your job after a work injury, please call Corales & Woody, LLC immediately to discuss your case. Getting your benefits will require a fight and it is essential to have the right lawyer in your corner. Next time we will discuss the requirement to search for a job after your termination.