Can My Employer Fire Me For Being Hurt on the Job?

4 mins reading time

When an employee is injured on the job in New York, files a workers’ compensation claim, and is then promptly fired, the employer is breaking the law. However, this sort of behavior happens all the time. In most situations, when an injured worker is fired following a workplace injury, they are still entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, there are some situations when workers’ compensation benefits are denied after an injured worker is fired.

If you were fired after being injured on the job, a workers’ compensation attorney at the law firm of Terry Katz & Associates can help. Since 1992, we have assisted over 25,000 New York workers injured while on the job in receiving their maximum workers’ compensation and disability benefits. Our track record is second to none.

Unjustified Reasons For Being Fired

New York is an at-will employment state, which means an employer can fire an employee at any time for any reason unless the employer is discriminating or retaliating against the worker. There are exceptions if the employee’s contract spells out the circumstances under which termination may occur. New York workers are also at-will employees, able to leave a job whenever they desire unless their contract specifically forbids them.  However, there are provisions in the New York State Workers’ Compensation regulations regarding when a worker’s firing is not justified following a work accident. 

Situations in Which a Firing May Not Be Justified Following a Work Accident Include:

  • Reporting a work accident
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim
  • Refusing to perform work greater than the work restrictions assigned by the treating physician
  • Hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer
  • Testifying before the Workers’ Compensation Board
  • Missing work with an excuse from the treating physician
  • While on leave as per the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Can I File a Workers’ Comp Claim if I Was Fired After an Accident?

Workers’ compensation insurance in New York is paid for by employers. Workers’ comp provides cash benefits and pays for medical expenses for those injured while on the job or develop an illness related directly to their work. Those injured on the job must go through the worker’s compensation process and not rely on their health insurance to pay medical benefits. WorkIn return for workers’ compensation benefits, workers cannot file a personal injury lawsuit against their employers.

Almost all New York employers must provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. This is true whether the employee works full-time or part-time, is temporary or seasonal. Although some states do not require farm or domestic employers to provide workers’ comp insurance, that is not true in New York. Domestic workers in the Empire State must work at least 40 hours a week for the same employer to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.

There are certain individuals not covered under New York’s workers’ compensation laws. As per the New York State Workers Compensation Board, these include:

· Duly ordained, commissioned or licensed ministers, priests, and rabbis; sextons; Christian Science readers; and members of religious orders 

· People engaged in a teaching capacity in or for a nonprofit religious, charitable or educational institution

· Persons receiving charitable aid from a religious or charitable institution who perform work in return for such aid and who are not under any express contract of hire

· People engaged in a non-manual capacity in or for a nonprofit religious, charitable or educational institution Manual labor includes but is not limited to such tasks as filing; carrying materials such as pamphlets, binders, or books; cleaning such as dusting or vacuuming; playing musical instruments; moving furniture; shoveling snow; mowing lawns, and construction of any sort

· People who are covered for specific types of employment under another workers’ compensation system such as those employed in certain maritime trades, interstate railroad employees, federal government employees, and others covered under federal workers’ compensation laws

· Sole proprietors

Exactly who is an employee rather than an independent contractor for workers’ compensation purposes is based on the employer’s right to control their work, whether the character of the work is the same as the employer, whether the business provides necessary furnishings and materials, and method of payment.

When a worker can return to work, but their injury prevents them from earning the same wages as they did prior to the injury, they may be entitled to a benefit making up two-thirds of that difference. Before full healing takes place, the worker may also return to work in light or an alternate duty.

While workers must report their injury within 30 days, it is critical to report the injury to a supervisor in a timely manner. Workers have two years in which to file a claim when a work-related injury or illness has caused additional damage. For example, if a worker slips and falls at work, returns to the job but develops back pain due to the injury, they must file a claim within that two-year timeframe. Failure to file a claim within this statute of limitations means your case cannot go forward. The exception is occupational hearing loss, in which the worker must report the injury within three months and 90 days from the time of reporting to file a claim.

If a person is fired after receiving their workers’ compensation benefits, these benefits are probably not affected. If fired before filing a claim, the worker should seek legal advice as soon as possible.

The experienced workers’ comp lawyers at Terry Katz & Associates will file your workers’ comp claim for you if you were fired after suffering a workplace injury. 

Common Reasons Workers’ Compensation Benefits are Denied

Sometimes a firing after a work accident is justified, but many times it is not. A justified firing, one that for cause, is more likely to result in the denial or suspension of workers’ compensation benefits.

Situations When a Firing May Be Justified or for Cause Following a Work Accident Include:

  • A positive drug or alcohol test result shortly after a work accident
  • Misuse of company equipment leading to a work injury
  • Missing work without a doctor’s excuse
  • Arguing with or being disrespectful to your boss or supervisor
  • Personal activities during work time resulting in an injury
  • Refusal to perform light duty work approved by the treating physician
  • Participating in illegal activities
  • Intentional injury

Some injured workers may find themselves denied benefits after a work injury. After such a denial, they are entitled to a hearing before a workers’ compensation administrative law judge. After reviewing medical records, medical treatment,  wages, and hearing testimony, the judge makes a decision.

The worker and the employer’s insurance company may appeal the judge’s decision by filing the appeal in writing within 30 days.  Three members of the Workers’ Compensation Board hear these appeals. They have the ability to accept the decision, reject it, or partly change it. The parties may appeal this decision to the full Board. After this decision, the parties may file an appeal within 30 days to the Appellate Division, Third Department, Supreme Court of the State of New York. The workers’ compensation lawyers at Terry Katz & Associates can handle the often complicated hearing and appeals process for you.

Call For a Free Consultation to Discuss Being Fired After Your Work Accident

If you or a loved one was fired after a work accident, you need the services of an experienced workers’ comp attorney at Terry Katz & Associates. Call us today at 888-488-7459 to arrange a free, confidential consultation. We will protect your legal rights and help you receive the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve. We serve clients throughout Long Island and New York City.

Terry Katz, Esq.

Terry Katz, Esq., the founding Member of the firm, handles all aspects of Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability cases.

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