Fear. It’s a powerful weapon. And it’s one that benefits employers and insurance companies in workers’ compensation claims.
If you were hurt in a work-related accident, you may be afraid of many things. Fear of losing your job. Fear of not being able to take care of your family. Fear of never returning to the only job you’ve ever known. All this fear can make you hesitant to pursue the workers’ comp benefits to which you’re entitled.
We understand that some employers ask injured employees to not file for workers’ comp so that their insurance premiums stay the same. And we understand that other employers start treating employees who have filed for workers’ comp differently. But we have good news. In Virginia your employer cannot fire or retaliate against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Like most states, Virginia makes it illegal to retaliate against an employee who files a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. In fact Virginia takes it one step further and makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who testifies in a workers’ compensation claim. This means that your coworker can testify on your behalf at a workers comp’ hearing without fear of legal retaliation.
But I Don’t Have an Employment Contract. Can’t My Employer Fire Me for Filing for Workers’ Comp?
Most employees in Virginia work at will. This means that an employer can fire an employee for any reason, or for no reason at all, as long as the reason is legal.
Virginia recognizes the public policy exception to at will employment. The public policy exception prohibits termination in violation of a state’s public policy doctrine or of a state statute. It is usually applied in cases where an employer interferes with an employee’s exercise of a statutorily created legal right or where an employer violates a statutorily created public policy meant to protect a class of persons of which the employee is a member.
In Virginia It is illegal for an employer to fire an employee because that employee has filed a workers’ compensation claim. This does not mean, however, that an injured worker has unlimited job security. Your employer can terminate you legally if it does so for reasons unrelated to your work comp claim.
What Should I Do if I Think I was Fired for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim?
It may be difficult to determine whether your employer retaliated against you because you filed a workers’ compensation claim. If you think you’re the victim of illegal retaliation, contact a Richmond workers compensation attorney right away. Your attorney will investigate the facts, including the timing of your termination, the stated reason for your termination, and any statements – written or verbal – made by your employer’s management team.
If you can prove that you were fired or retaliated against because you filed for workers’ comp, you may be entitled to additional compensation through a civil lawsuit.
Thank to our friends and contributor Corey R. Pollard, Esq. for his insight into workers compensation claims.