Fired for Being Unable to Work due to Work-Related Injury

Be cautious about firing employees who have been injured on the job. You have a duty to try to accommodate the employee under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

By , J.D., University of Missouri School of Law

Life can change in an instant if you experience a work-related injury. An injury can leave you permanently or temporarily disabled, unable to earn an income due to chronic pain or medically-prescribed limitations.

Injured employees and their employers sometimes wonder whether the employees have a continued right to maintain their jobs after they suffer an injury.

Firing for a Work-Related Injury

Most states have laws that make it illegal to fire an employee solely because the employee has suffered a workplace injury and filed a workers' compensation claim. However, an employee may be fired if the injury makes the employee unable to complete the employee's essential job responsibilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that an employer make reasonable accommodations before firing an employee. For example, the employer might have to create a modified work schedule, provide certain equipment, or restructure the job to meet the needs created by the injury.

Accommodations are considered "reasonable" if they don't impact the employer's budget and operations too much. In general, larger employers are expected to make greater accommodations than smaller ones.

Sometimes an employer doesn't want to make the requested accommodations and might even pressure or harass the employee to leave the job. Injury harassment is not an acceptable way for an employer to deal with a work injury. The employer has a duty to work with the employee to try to come up with ways to modify the employee's job.

Does Getting Fired Affect My Workers' Comp Benefits?

If you're terminated while applying for or receiving workers' compensation benefits, fear not. Losing your job doesn't affect your eligibility for benefits, and your benefits won't be terminated when you stop working.

If you believe you were fired in retaliation for filing a workers' comp claim, or because your medical issues mean that you can't perform the duties of your old job, contact an employment attorney to discuss your legal options.

Getting Help from an Employment Attorney

Any employer who is considering terminating an injured employee can benefit from contacting a knowledgeable employment lawyer. An employment attorney can help determine whether reasonable accommodations can be made to the position to allow the employee to continue working, and whether the employer has a lawful basis for firing the worker.

If you're an employee who has been terminated after suffering a workplace injury, you should also contact an employment attorney to discuss your options. Your lawyer can explain what damages, if any, you might be entitled to receive from your former employer.

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