Are You Worried About Being Fired for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim in North Carolina?
The fear of being fired or otherwise retaliated against in the workplace is a common concern among employees who are considering filing a workers’ compensation claim in North Carolina. Although it is illegal for your employer to fire you (or retaliate against you in any way) for this reason, that doesn’t mean that it never happens.
The laws regarding employer retaliation in North Carolina are defined by the North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discharge Act (REDA). Specifically, this Act prohibits retaliation in the form of demotion, suspension, relocation, or firing in response to protected activities, such as reporting work related injuries or health and safety hazards. However, North Carolina employers may try to get away such retaliation under the protection of the “right to work” laws of North Carolina.
The “right to work” system in North Carolina and many other states allows employers to fire their employees for any reason, or even for no reason. Thus, if you experience an injury that makes it impossible for you to perform your work duties, your employer could terminate you for this, without that being considered as retaliation. The employer can also legally refuse to accommodate any medical restrictions defined by your doctors. They cannot fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim, but they can fire you for any other reason. They don’t even have to specify a reason when they do so.
Common reasons that employers cite for their retaliatory actions include loss of productivity, inability to perform job tasks, and poor attendance, which may be due to injuries and doctor’s appointments. Here, as you see, the lines can get blurred regarding what is legal and what is illegal retaliation. Thus, if you feel that your employer has retaliated against you, the best thing to do is to contact a North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney to advise you, if you have not already done so. You do have the right to file a REDA claim with the North Carolina Department of Labor. You must do so within 180 days of the date that the alleged retaliatory action occurred, and the Department of Labor will investigate your claim.
If the North Carolina Department of Labor cannot resolve your complaint, then they will give you a “right to sue” authorization which allows you to take the matter to court. If you are successful, then you may be awarded damages for your lost wages and benefits, your attorney fees, and potentially triple damages.
Of course, unlawful firing is not the only form of employer retaliation that you might face after filing a workers’ compensation claim. You could also be treated unfairly by being relocated, being demoted, or being suspended from your job. Many workers are tempted to quit their jobs when faced with employer retaliation. However, quitting is very unwise. You may have work restrictions that the employer is unable or unwilling to accommodate; yet, if you quit, your employer can easily claim that the only reason that you are out of work is because you quit, not because you were fired or unfairly treated. They may even claim that they were willing to accommodate your restrictions, but that you quit instead of seeking such accommodation. An employee who quits his or her job will have a very difficult, if not impossible, time receiving any type of disability benefit through workers’ compensation.
For these reasons, quitting your job is a good way to ensure that your workers’ compensation claim will be initially denied, and it make take months or years to fight for your right to disability benefits. Most people find it very difficult to survive for so long without any income. If you are tempted to quit your job due to employer retaliation, remember that you have other options. The best thing to do is to contact a North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney to advise and assist you with your claim and with responding to employer retaliation. The attorneys at Brown, Moore, and Associates have the experience and expertise to guide you in the right direction and ensure that you are fairly treated and represented.
Beyond seeking legal representation, you can also keep meticulous notes and documentation of any examples of unfair treatment that you encounter, communicate with your supervisor or other management in writing, and follow company established procedures for reporting abuse.
Typically, if your employer ends up firing you because your injuries prevent you from working, but those injuries occurred through the performance of your job duties, then you should be eligible for workers’ compensation disability benefits. If you quit your job, however, then you may be denied for these benefits.
If you are worried about employer retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim, you are not alone. Contact the attorneys at Brown, Moore, and Associates to get a free consultation and help with your claim for compensation and any potential claims of employer retaliation.