If you get injured in an accident – either in the workplace or outside of work – you may be temporarily unable to return to your job. You may need a few days or weeks to recover before you can return. You may also have a temporary or permanent disability that requires job accommodations. Even if you can continue working, you may be surprised to discover that your employer has discharged you. Find out when an employer legally can and cannot fire you after being injured in an accident in Georgia.
Georgia Is an At-Will Employment State
Like many states, Georgia abides by an at-will employment law. This law gives employers the right to fire workers for any reason or no reason at all, with no advanced notice or severance package required. In exchange, workers can quit their jobs without having to give a reason or a two weeks’ notice. The at-will employment law means that your employer can fire you in many scenarios – including after an accident – without breaking the law or giving you the right to file a wrongful termination lawsuit. There are exceptions, however, in certain circumstances.
What Laws Protect Injured Workers From Being Fired?
There are state laws in Georgia as well as federal employment laws that may protect you from being fired after an accident, depending on the situation. Certain laws prohibit an employer from terminating your employment in many scenarios, including if your accident gave you a temporary or permanent disability. The following are three key laws that limit your employer’s right to fire you after an accident in Georgia:
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA is a federal law that provides 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave for employees with injuries or illnesses. Under the rules of the FMLA, if your employer has more than 50 employees and you have worked at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months, you can take up to 12 weeks of leave per year to deal with medical issues, including injuries that make you unable to do your job.
- The Americans With Disabilities Act. This federal law forbids discriminating against an employee based on a disability. As long as you can perform the essential functions of the job – with or without reasonable accommodations provided by your employer – you legally cannot be fired based on a disability alone.
- Federal and state retaliation laws. There are laws at both the state and federal levels that protect workers from retaliation. Retaliation is an unlawful employment practice where an employer takes adverse action against a worker for a protected activity, such as reporting a workplace hazard or filing a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
If you believe that you were fired for an unlawful reason after being injured in an accident in Georgia, you may be able to get your job back and/or recover financial compensation to cover your losses with a wrongful termination lawsuit. A lawyer can help you file this type of claim against your employer in Atlanta.
Can I Get Fired for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
If you were injured in an accident while performing tasks related to your job, you cannot get fired simply for filing a workers’ compensation claim. This is a protected activity under Georgia’s workers’ comp program, meaning an employer lawfully cannot terminate you just for filing. This is a form of unlawful retaliation.
If your employer fires you because you can no longer perform the necessary functions of the job, however, this is an acceptable reason to terminate your employment under the at-will law. Note that if you have already been given workers’ comp benefits, your payments will continue even after you get fired from a job.
Employment laws are constantly changing. For further information and legal assistance, contact an attorney in Atlanta at Hilley & Frieder.