One of the most asked questions is whether an injured worker can be fired while off of work due to a work injury. Unfortunately, the answer is actually a complex one as it requires the review of both state and federal laws.
In Illinois, thousands of workers suffer work-related injuries every year. While recovering from the work injury, you may be taken off work or given restrictions that your employer could not accommodate. While off work, your concern will be whether you will be terminated while off work.
The general rule in Illinois is that an employer cannot fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim. If you are terminated for having filed a workers’ compensation claim, you would be entitled to file a civil suit for a retaliatory discharge. However, most employers are trained to not say that they are firing you for filing the workers’ compensation claim but instead terminate for alternate reasons. This makes bringing such suits more difficult as you much show by circumstantial evidence that the real reason they terminated you was due to the filing of the workers’ compensation claim.
As a result, whether your employer has a right to fire you after you sustain a work-related injury is a complicated question that depends on the facts of your case. Still, there are some guidelines you can use to determine if you can be fired while out on workers’ compensation in Illinois. Below, one of our Illinois workers’ compensation lawyers explains further. For immediate assistance, contact us today.
You Can Be Fired if You Cannot Perform Your Employment Duties
The majority of employees in Illinois are considered to be “at will.” This means that employers generally have the right to fire workers for any lawful reason and sometimes for no reason at all. If you cannot perform your employment duties, that may provide a lawful reason for your employer to fire you. For example, if you work in a warehouse and heavy lifting is part of your job description and the work injury leaves you permanently unable to return to this job. In this case, your employer may have the right to fire you. However, there would be further benefits that would be owed under the workers’ compensation claim.
Your Employer Cannot Fire You for a Disability
The majority of employers in Illinois are governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is federal legislation. Employers in Illinois specifically are also subject to the Illinois Environmental Barriers Act, which is state law. Under both state and federal law, employers cannot discriminate against employees who suffer from disabilities. The law applies if your disability is severe enough to qualify under this State or Federal definition.
Sometimes, a disability will allow you to perform your employment duties, but you may need reasonable accommodation in order to complete those tasks. Your employer cannot fire you due to your disability or for asking for reasonable accommodation. However, the employer is not required to provide accommodations if providing those reasonable accommodations would impose an undue hardship on your employer. For example, you may need to hire a second employee to fill your position.
Under both the ADA and the Illinois Environmental Barriers Act, you have rights if your employer fires you for requesting reasonable accommodations. You may be entitled to back pay and other types of financial compensation, and you may even be entitled to reinstatement at your job. To know for sure, reach out to an expert lawyer at Jerome, Salmi and Kopis.
Can I Be Fired While Out On Workers’ Compensation in Illinois?
Fortunately, both State and Federal laws offer many protections that prohibit your employer from firing you while you are off work for a workplace injury. However, there are times when employers are well within their rights to terminate you while you are recovering from a workplace injury. These instances are as follows:
- Making accommodations would cause the employer undue financial hardship: There are times when it is simply not possible for an employer to make reasonable accommodations for an injury sustained on the job. For example, if a disability prevents you from performing an essential function of your job, allowing you to continue working for the employer may create an undue hardship for them. If a truck driver can no longer drive, it may be impossible for the employer to make reasonable accommodations. In this instance, the employer could legally fire the truck driver.
- The employer does not have another position that could accommodate your physical capabilities after the injury: If you can no longer perform your employment duties, your employer should try to accommodate you with lighter work or another position. If there is not another position available, or it would cause another employee to become displaced, your employer may be able to legally fire you.
- You are a key employee: If you hold a position that is essential to your employer’s ability to run their business and you cannot work due to a workplace injury, your employer may have a right to fire you. For example, if you are an accountant, you are a key employee because your employer may rely on you for day-to-day bookkeeping. Without this position, your employer may not be able to continue operating their business.
- Your duration off of work surpassed the number of weeks under the Family Medical Leave Act. Under Federal law, the Family Medical Leave Act protects your job for up to 12 weeks. However, the FMLA only applies to employers who have 50 or more employees. Additionally, if you are off for a work injury, it does not mean that you will be immediately terminated after 12 weeks. Instead, it means that your employer has a legal right to terminate you.
If your employer has fired you while you were off for a workplace injury, you should always speak to an Illinois workers’ compensation lawyer. An attorney can review the facts of your case and determine whether your termination was lawful. A lawyer will also fight for your rights and help you recover compensation if your termination was against the law.
Possible Options if You Were Fired While Out From Work
If your employer has fired you while you were out from work for an injury, you may still have options for obtaining benefits and other types of compensation. These include:
- Workers’ compensation benefits: Workers’ compensation benefits are available for employees who have been injured on the job. As long as you were employed at the time of the accident and sustained your injury on the job, you are likely eligible to receive ongoing lost time benefits so long as you are either off work or on work restrictions due to the work accident. Additionally, if you are fired after you receive permanent work restrictions, you would be entitled to ongoing weekly benefits, called maintenance benefits, while you look for a new job within your permanent work restrictions.
- Personal injury claim: If a third party, not related to your employer, caused your accident, you can file a personal injury claim against them. Through a personal injury claim, you can recover compensation for your lost wages, loss of employment and future lost earnings.
- Social Security disability: If your workplace injury left you disabled, you may be able to file a claim for supplemental security income (SSI) or Social Security disability insurance (SSDI). These benefits each have their own eligibility requirements, so it is important to speak to an attorney who can advise on which type of benefit you qualify for.
- Unemployment benefits: If your employer fired you due to your workplace injury, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. While looking for new employment, these benefits may help you recover some of your lost pay.
Our Workers’ Compensation Lawyers in Illinois Can Advise You
If you have suffered a workplace injury, you need to speak to an attorney who will protect your rights and represent your best interests. At the Law Office of Jerome Salmi Kopis, LLC, our Illinois workers’ compensation lawyers can review the facts of your case to determine if you were fired unlawfully and advise you of your options. Call us now at (618) 726-2222 or fill out our online form to schedule a free review of your case.