When you are injured at work, workers’ compensation insurance is designed to compensate you for your lost wages and medical expenses. This benefit is crucial for workers and can help bridge the gap between the time a worker needs to heal and recover and when they can get back on the job.
One of the most common questions a worker has after a workplace injury is if their employer can terminate their employment just for filing a claim. A workers’ comp claim, after all, may increase the employer’s insurance costs so it’s not unreasonable to fear losing their job or facing retribution.
In Pennsylvania, the law prohibits employers for terminating employment solely because of a workers’ compensation claim, however they can terminate you for other reasons. Let’s take a look at how employees are protected from unlawful termination, steps to take if you are injured at work, and when you should consult a workers’ comp attorney.
Can My Employer Fire Me for Filing Workers’ Comp?
Pennsylvania law strictly prohibits employers from firing employees who file a workers’ compensation claim after an injury and even further, protects employees from retaliation. Employees also can’t be punished for winning a claim and subsequently receiving benefits.
That doesn’t stop some employers, though, from seeking retribution or retaliation after a workers’ comp claim. Signs of retaliation include:
- Reduced work hours
- Verbal threats
- Unfair performance review
- Creating a hostile work environment
Because Pennsylvania is an “at will” employment state, employers can use any reason – or no reason – to terminate a person’s employment. If you were injured at work and subsequently fired, your employer can’t use the injury as a reason, but rather could fabricate another reason for your termination. In this instance, it’s important to contact a workers’ compensation attorney to investigate your case.
Steps to Take to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Remember – the best chance at protecting yourself after a workplace injury is to follow the steps to take to file a workers’ compensation claim. The system is designed to protect both your and your employer’s interests. If you are injured at work, follow this process to protect yourself and your rights:
- Report your injury to your employer If your injury is not life threatening, report your injury to your employer immediately. This starts the process for workers’ compensation. Explain how you were injured on the job including the time and place and make it clear the accident was work-related. Although you have 21 days from the date of your injury to report it, don’t wait. Benefits begin from the date you report the injury, not the date it occurred. After you report the injury to your employer, they are required to report it to their insurance company and provide you with the paperwork and instructions to file a claim with the PA Department of Labor & Industry.
- Seek medical attention After you’ve reported your injury to your employer, seek medical attention. Your employer may have a list of approved workers’ compensation physicians or medical offices they require you to see for an evaluation. If so, you must see one of the approved doctors for the first 90 days after your injury. If you choose to ignore the list of physicians and see someone else, your employer may refuse to pay your medical bills for the first 90 days. If there isn’t a posted list of doctors, you can choose to see any doctor you prefer.
- Document your injury and recovery Your employer’s insurance company will try to minimize their financial risk and find reasons to deny your claim. Detailed notes can help prove your claim should it come into question. Were there witnesses to your injury? Was there a piece of malfunctioning equipment? Write down as much as possible so you have the correct information for your claim. Consider having a friend or family member attend doctor’s appointments with you to help you document conversations. Keep all documents from your physician as well as copies of bills and statements.
Workers’ compensation is a benefit you are entitled to after a workplace injury. Injured workers have the right to file a claim without fear of termination or retribution. If you were injured at work, the workers’ comp process may seem overwhelming. An experienced workers’ comp attorney can help you navigate the legal process.
When to Contact an Attorney
Getting injured on the job can result in days, weeks, and even months of paperwork, doctor’s appointments, medical bills, and lost wages, not to mention the emotional and physical toll an injury can take. The entire experience and workers’ comp process can be complicated. Workers’ comp attorneys can take on the burden of your claim allowing you to focus on recovery, not the stress of a claim.
It’s especially important to consult an attorney if:
- Your employer refuses to submit your injury report to their insurance company.
- Your workers’ comp claim is denied.
- Your employer retaliates by cutting hours, adding an additional workload, or creating a hostile work environment.
- You are fired.
Your employer and their insurance carrier have a team of legal experts on their side who are solely focused on minimizing workers’ comp claims. You deserve the same representation after your injury. Contact a reputable workers’ comp law firm to understand your rights as an injured employee.
Workers’ Compensation Attorneys in York, Pa.
Navigating the workers’ compensation benefits system can be stressful, overwhelming, and time-consuming. At the law offices of Dale E. Anstine, our workers’ comp attorneys can take that stress off of you so you can focus on your health. We have represented thousands of injured workers in York, Hanover, and Central Pennsylvania during the workers’ compensation claims process and are ready to put that experience to work for you.
If you’ve suffered an injury on the job or experienced other illnesses or injuries as a result of your work, reach out today. It’s critical to reach out quickly if you feel your employer may retaliate. Consultations are always free, and there is no fee unless we win for you! You can request an appointment online, or call us at 717.846.0606.