This is a common question and the answer is yes you can be fired.  I know this is a very scary concept for anyone, especially after a serious injury.  However, there are things that can protect you. 

  1. You can apply for FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) while on workers’ compensation. This is a Federal law, which, if it applies, requires that the employer hold your job for you for 12 weeks. Then, at the end of the 12 week period, if you are able to return to full duty or a light duty position with easily accommodated restrictions, the employer has to have a job for you that pays you what you were making before you were injured.  This job does not have to be the job you were doing before you were injured.  Also, if you have work restrictions, the employer does not have to offer you a job.
  2. If FMLA does not apply to you and the employer does not have work for you, or, if you have work restrictions at the end of the FMLA period, the employer can terminate your employment and you will be fired. However, they probably will owe you lost wages.  If you are not under an Award through the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission for the lost wages, you may have to look for a job.  However, as long as you can show that you are trying to look for work, the workers’ compensation insurance carrier will probably still have to pay you.
  3. If you are hurt at work, it is important that you contact Human Resources to see if you qualify for FMLA leave. If not, be sure to try whatever job the employer offers you.  If they do not, be prepared to look for another job, even if you have not been fired.

Of course, each case differs on a case-by-case basis. For this reason, it is important to talk to an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.