Can a company fire a worker for filing a workers’ compensation claim?

On Behalf of | Nov 28, 2023 | Employment Law |

Getting hurt on the job is the last thing the average employee in Texas wants. An on-the-job injury can affect their quality of life and their income. Major injuries often require medical care and time away from work, both of which can cause financial hardship.

Thankfully, the average employee in Texas can file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits after sustaining job-related harm. Yet, all too often, employees fail to do so because they believe that a claim would put their job at risk.

Can a company terminate or otherwise discipline a worker because they file a workers’ compensation claim in Texas?

Retaliation is against the law

Both federal laws and Texas state statutes prohibit businesses from retaliating against workers. Protected workplace activities, including reporting an injury, seeking workplace benefits and requesting accommodations should not result in career consequences for the worker. Whether a business has workers’ compensation insurance coverage or self-insures, an employee’s claim should not affect their employment status.

The doctor overseeing their care usually drafts a Work Status Report that will make it clear what work the employee can do. Their recommendations may include a leave of absence or altered job functions until someone’s condition improves. Generally, Texas encourages employers to participate in return-to-work programs that help injured workers get back to work as quickly as possible. They can allow a worker to switch positions or offer assistive technology so that they can safely work while recovering.

It would be inappropriate for a company to fire a worker simply for filing a workers’ compensation claim. The terminated employee could have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit. However, companies can fire workers during a claim due to a variety of different factors.

If the company engages in mass layoffs and includes a worker currently on leave through workers’ compensation, that may not constitute retaliation. Similarly, if an injured worker requires months away from their job, the company may eventually replace them with a new employee. Not every firing that occurs after a worker reports the job injury is retaliation. Still, retaliatory firings do occur in Texas and elsewhere.

Because this area of law is complex, those who need to file for workers’ compensation benefits may wish to seek legal guidance before committing to any particular course of action or inaction, in order to better understand their rights and options.