Can Your Job Fire You After Your Accident?
Many people assume that if you’ve had a job accident, you can’t be fired from the job. This doesn’t seem fair. After all, the accident may not have been your fault, you have gotten hurt, and now you can be fired as well? This seems to make no sense.
Actually, you can be fired. The best analogy is that if you are a bus driver who is rendered unable to see well enough to drive, the boss can find someone else to do your job. You would be entitled to worker’s compensation benefits and possibly unemployment benefits, but you would not be entitled to keep your job.
Of course, in some instances, you can apply for leave under Federal laws such as the family leave act. Or, you may be able to ask your employer to reasonably accommodate your disability. Or, you may have other protections such as a union contract or an employment contract. In the bus driver analogy, your employer might choose to ask you to return to work in a different capacity, such as in the office.
But, you cannot simply demand that just because you had a job accident, on that basis alone you are entitled to your old job back. In fact, your boss can fire you if you can’t perform your job or even if the boss believes someone else can do the job better.
Of course, your company cannot fire you for discriminatory reasons, but, be careful, discrimination has a specific legal meaning and the only discrimination specifically covered under the Workers’ Compensation law states that your boss cannot legally fire you in retaliation for filing a workers claim. This is something that comes up rarely and is hard to prove, although if proven, could force your employer to reinstate you. Again, discrimination is a specific term and this type of claim should be discussed carefully with a lawyer and with the understanding that most of the time, claims of discrimination are not a part of the workers’ compensation scheme.
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Therefore, if you are hurt on the job and unable to work, your employer doesn’t have to hold your job open for you just because you made a claim. If your employer legitimately needs to fill your position and you are unable to perform competently, the company may replace you. Workers’ Compensation accidents are not a basis for job security. In fact, after you are sufficiently recovered to return to some type of work, the insurance company can demand as a condition of receiving payments that you look for a new job even if your old job doesn’t want you back.
This can become complicated. While in New York employers generally have the right to fire employees with limited justification, the best way to understand your rights or what you can do in any situation is to call a lawyer. To that end, I am available to discuss these issues with clients and prospective clients.
If you have any questions regarding how New York Workers’ Compensation law protects or fails to protect your job, please call me at (212) 964-9292 or fill out an online contact form to schedule a consultation.