So, you were hurt at work in Virginia and got fired. Here is what you need to know:
- Retaliation is not a legitimate reason for termination. If you were fired as retaliation for filing a workers compensation claim, you may be able to file suit against the employer (Section 65.2-308 of the Code of Virginia). You may recover actual damages plus attorney’s fees in this type of suit, however, this is separate from your workers compensation claim. Workers’ compensation only addresses the injured worker’s lost wages and medical benefits. It DOES NOT regulate employers or their actions. You may need to contact an attorney who handles labor and employment matters. If you feel you need a labor and employment attorney, please contact my office and my staff can put you in touch with an attorney who can assist with this.
- Positive Drug Test. If you are fired because you tested positive for drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident, you need to contact an experienced workers compensation attorney immediately. The employer may be able to terminate you for a violation of their drug policy but you still may be able to receive workers compensation if the drugs or alcohol did not “cause” the accident. The attorney may be able to fight this.
- Fired while the doctor has you out of work. If you are terminated from your employment while the doctor has you out of work, workers compensation can still pay you while the doctor says you are unable to work. Sadly, workers compensation does not offer job protection but, depending on your situation, you may be able to continue receiving workers compensation if the doctor releases you to some form of light-duty work.
- Fired after returning to work on work restrictions. If you are fired after you return to work from a work injury and are placed on light duty, you may lose your workers compensation benefits if the employer can show you were fired for “cause” (misconduct, absenteeism, insubordination, tardiness, fighting, and so on). The employer may even look for a reason to terminate you so if you are back to work on light duty work restrictions, so you need to be on your best behavior! The flip side is, if you are fired due to things beyond your control or “without cause” (the employer could not accommodate your work restrictions any longer, the employer had to fill your position or could no longer hold your job, the company went out of business or had to downsize), you may be entitled to continue receiving lost wage benefits. Depending on your situation, you may be required to job search in order to remain eligible to receive lost wage benefits (this is complicated and the Commission has STRICT requirements that injured workers have to meet). If you are unsure of your status or eligibility to collect lost wage benefits, contact an experienced Virginia workers compensation attorney to get some clarity on whether or not you need to do the job searching in order to keep receiving your lost wage benefits.
If you would like more information on the Virginia workers compensation system and what to do if you’ve been fired after being injured at work, order my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” by clicking this LINK, or call our office today (804) 755-7755.
About the Author: Michele Lewane
The Injured Workers Law Firm is a Richmond, Virginia based firm solely focused on serving clients with workers' compensation claims in Virginia. If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order our book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” , or call our office today (804) 755-7755.