Were You Fired or Demoted After Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Getting seriously injured on the job is oftentimes a devastating experience for an employee, as it not only means that they must miss out on work while they recover, but it also means that they must rehash every detail of their injury with HR, file a bunch of paperwork, and yes, file a workers’ compensation claim. Filing a workers’ compensation claim is never an easy thing to do, as it essentially means that you are suing your company for damages accrued while on their premises. However, if you do not file for workers’ compensation benefits, you may find yourself out of work without pay for an extensive period of time while you recover. That is not something that you should have to do.
When you get injured, you may find that your employer and the HR department are ready with a few coercive tactics to try and keep you from filing. They may offer you extended sick pay, or a larger year-end bonus, or even a pay raise. Some employers go the opposite route and try to intimidate employees out of filing for workers’ compensation benefits, by threatening them with a demotion or even termination. In the worst cases, an employer follows through with his or her threats, and fires an employee while they are out recovering. None of these tactics are legal, and if your employer tries any of them on you, you may have a workers’ compensation retaliation claim on your hands.
Proving Workers’ Compensation Retaliation
According to Florida Statute 440.205, it is illegal for an employer to terminate, threaten to terminate, intimidate, or coerce any employee for the sole reason that they filed a valid workers’ compensation claim, or that they attempted to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Retaliation by your employer can take many forms, including:
- Termination or the threat to terminate;
- Demotion/failure to promote;
- Forced resignation;
- Discipline of any kind;
- Dock in pay; and
- Loss of benefits.
While it may be difficult to prove that some actions were a direct result of your filing for workers’ compensation benefits (such as proving workplace harassment), the timing of the negative attention oftentimes serves as a key indicator of retaliation for our Orlando, Florida workers’ compensation lawyers. However, you may still have your work cut out for you.
In Florida, you must prove that you were retaliated against solely because you were on workers’ compensation or because you filed for workers’ compensation benefits. As the case of Ortega v. Engineering Systems Technology, Inc. clarified in 2007, Florida’s statute governing workers’ compensation retaliation “cannot be interpreted to prohibit the discharge of an employee for any reason once the employee has filed or pursued a workers’ compensation claim. Employers still retain their traditional right to terminate employees for legitimate business reasons, such as unsatisfactory job performance or excessive absenteeism.”
With that in mind, unlawful retaliation is generally proved by one or more of the following:
- Timing (how soon after learning of the protected activity did your employer react);
- Animus (your employer getting angry or upset about your pursuance of the protected activity);
- Deviation from standard protocol (employees are generally not fired for this reason);
- Change of story (your employer told you that they fired you for excessive absenteeism, but later on, they claimed your termination was a result of poor performance);
- A pattern of adverse reactions against employees who file workers’ compensation claims; or
- The use of false evidence.
Proving Eligibility for Workers’ Compensation Benefits
In addition to proving that any negative attention from your employer was an act of retaliation, you must also prove the following:
- That you were entitled to receive benefits under Florida’s workers’ compensation law;
- That you immediately took some protected activity after accruing your injuries, such as filing for workers’ compensation benefits;
- That you suffered an adverse employment reaction, such as termination or demotion; and
- That the employer acted as a result of your protected activity.
Furthermore, you may only file a workers’ compensation claim if you are an employee of the company and if your employer participates in Florida’s workers’ compensation program. You may also want to carefully review your employment contract and be sure that it does not include a disclaimer or waiver regarding the activity and/or equipment from which your injuries were sustained.
Consult an Orlando Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
At The Pendas Law Firm, our employment lawyers deal with hundreds of injured workers every year, and we make it our goal to help them exercise their rights as employees of the State of Florida. One of your rights as a Florida worker is to receive adequate care and compensation should you be injured on the job. If you are denied that right – or if your employer has threatened you or retaliated against you in some way for pursuing that right – you may have a workers’ compensation retaliation claim on your hands. To consult with one of our experienced workers’ compensation lawyers, contact our Orlando law firm at 1-888-LPENDAS or schedule a private consultation online today.
In addition to serving clients in the Orlando area, our firm also serves individuals in Tampa, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale & Miami.