If you are injured at work in the state of New York, you can collect workers’ compensation benefits. The benefits should cover your medical expenditures and you may also receive disability income. You can receive these benefits for a long period of time after you make your initial claim, until you recover from your injuries. While you are receiving benefits, you may be able to continue to do some work for your employer.
Many people who receive workers’ compensation benefits are concerned about whether their employer will treat them fairly. One common question that arises is whether it is possible for an employer to fire someone who is on workers’ compensation. The answer to this question is: it depends.
As the New York State Office of the Attorney General stipulates, New York is an employment-at-will state. This essentially means that unless you have an employment contract saying otherwise, your employer can fire you any time for any reason or for no reason at all.
However, the law carves out some important exceptions to employment-at-will and establishes certain reasons why your employer can’t fire you. For example, your employer can’t fire you because of your gender or religion, since Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes this type of discrimination against the law. If your employer is covered by Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), then you are also entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave because of an illness or injury and your employer cannot fire you because you take this time off.
New York workers’ compensation law creates another exception to employment-at-will rules. Under NY Workers’ Comp Law section 10-35, an employer is prohibited from discharging or discriminating against you because you filed a workers’ compensation or disability benefits claim. An employer is also prohibited by this code section from firing you because you testified before the Workers’ Compensation Board.
Because of these provisions in the NY workers’ comp rules, your employer may be liable for wrongful termination you were fired as a result of your work injury or your workers’ comp claim. However, your employer could still fire you for other reasons. If, for example, you kept working at your job while receiving work injury benefits and you made a mistake or did something wrong, then your employer could fire you.
The basic rule, therefore, is that your employer doesn’t have to give you special treatment or keep you employed just because you are on workers’ comp, but the employer also can’t terminate you just because you are on workers’ comp. Any decision about your termination must be made entirely independently of the fact that you suffered a work injury.
It can sometimes be difficult to determine if your employer acted within the bounds of the law or if your employer wrongfully terminated you due to a workers’ comp claim. It is advisable to speak with an experienced attorney about your situation to determine if your employer acted legally. Call The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., if you are laid off after a work injury to have your case evaluated for free by an experienced member of our legal team.