Workers’ compensation benefits can help you pay for your medical bills and make up for lost wages while you take time away from work to recover from your injuries. Most workers assume their jobs are safe while they are away from work on workers’ comp, and that they will not be fired or laid off. Job security, however, is not a guarantee.
Employee and Employer Rights
Georgia is an at-will employment state, meaning an employee can be fired for any reason or no reason at all, without warning, as long as the reason is not against the law, such as based on discrimination or retaliation. In addition, an employee can quit without a reason and without giving any notice.
If you suffered an injury or illness at work and qualified for workers’ compensation benefits, this does not necessarily mean your job will be waiting for you when you recover and can get back to work. While most employees hope that this is the case, employers have the legal right to fire or lay off employees who are currently on workers’ compensation benefits. Qualifying for workers’ comp does not make you immune from layoffs.
What Happens to Your Workers’ Comp Benefits If You’re Laid Off?
The good news is that although you can lose your job while healing from an injury or illness, you will not lose your workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits are not contingent upon you having your job. You will continue to receive these benefits until you have healed and are able to work again. If you suffered a permanent injury, you could continue receiving workers’ compensation disability benefits from your old job indefinitely.
In addition, your employer cannot use your workers’ comp as severance pay. If you qualify for a severance package or unemployment benefits after losing your job, these financial benefits will come in addition to your workers’ compensation checks. These financial benefits can provide some windfall while you look for another job or receive training for a new job that suits your current physical capabilities. In Georgia, workers’ comp can also include coverage for vocational rehabilitation and training for a new position, if necessary.
Were You the Victim of Wrongful Termination or Retaliation?
The only time an employer cannot lay you off while you are on workers’ compensation is if the choice was made because you filed a workers’ compensation insurance claim. This is called retaliation, and it is against the law in Georgia. Retaliation means taking adverse employment action against an employee as a form of punishment for a legally protected activity, such as filing a safety complaint with a government agency or seeking workers’ comp benefits after an accident.
If you believe your employer laid you off or is demoting you in some other way because you reported the hazard that injured you to authorities or filed a workers’ compensation claim, you may be the victim of retaliation and wrongful termination. The same is true if you were laid off based on your disability, age, sex, race, religion or another protected class. Wrongful termination can give you the right to file a liability lawsuit against your employer to seek financial compensation for your related losses, including emotional distress and lost wages.
How Can an Attorney Help?
Employment law in Georgia is confusing and can be difficult to navigate, especially if you have a case involving both workers’ compensation and retaliation or wrongful termination. These are complicated areas of law that require an attorney’s assistance.
Hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer in Atlanta can enable you to fully protect your rights while you focus on healing. Your lawyer can help you understand workers’ comp benefits and take legal action against your employer for wrongful termination, if applicable. Your lawyer will work diligently to make sure you and your family have everything you need during a difficult time.