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- Worker’s Compensation
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Colorado’s workers’ compensation program provides employees with an important safety net. But while this safety net might ensure continued financial security after an injury, it does not necessarily protect you against the threat of being terminated. Many workers who suffer injuries and file workers’ comp claims might feel somewhat paranoid about their job security. After all, why would their employer keep them on the payroll or preserve their position if they cannot return for many more months?
If you have been fired while on workers’ comp, you may wish to consult with a workers’ comp attorney in Colorado to discuss your options. This is especially true if you believe you have been terminated in a retaliatory manner after an injury before you had the chance to actually file your claim. Choose the Law Offices of W. Dan Mahoney, P.C. to get started with an effective action plan.
The most important thing to understand is that even if you are terminated from your position while receiving workers’ comp benefits, these benefits will continue. If you stop receiving payments after you are terminated, this is a violation of the workers’ comp program in Colorado.
That being said, there may be certain situations in which your termination coincides with the normal cessation of workers’ comp. For example, you may be terminated after a doctor states that you have fully recovered from your workplace injuries. If you refuse to return to work even after you recover, your employer might fire you. You may also stop receiving workers’ comp benefits simultaneously due to the doctor’s assessment of your condition. The same logic applies to Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI).
It is also worth mentioning that Colorado (like almost all other states) follows an “at-will” system when it comes to employment. This means that at any time, your employer can terminate your position with no warning – and without providing a specific reason. In other words, there is nothing stopping your employer from telling you that you’re fired at any point during your employment.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, however. Firstly, you may have an employment agreement with your employer that stipulates that you may only be terminated under certain circumstances. Employment agreements are legally binding, and these conditions must be met in order for your employer to legally fire you. In addition, your employer cannot fire you in retaliation for a protected action. Finally, termination based on discrimination is never allowed – including the termination of disabled individuals.
With that said, the termination of disabled individuals is justified under certain circumstances. Generally speaking, an employer has a duty to at least attempt to find acceptable work for the injured worker. For example, a disabled construction worker may be able to work as a forklift operator after suffering a serious knee injury. But if the disability proves so severe that all work is no longer viable, the employer is allowed to terminate the employee.
In other words, there is actually an incentive for the employer to find acceptable work for the injured employee, as this may help mitigate some of the losses incurred by the company until the injured worker reaches MMI.
Some employers fire their workers immediately after they have suffered workplace injuries. This is common, as this strategy would theoretically lift the financial consequences of a workers’ comp claim for the employer. In practice, however, this is an illegal form of retaliation. Filing a workers’ comp claim is a protected action, and your employer is not allowed to fire you because you’re about to seek compensation under this system.
If you have been terminated before you had a chance to file a workers’ comp claim, you may have the opportunity to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer. Speak with your attorney for more information.
If you need further guidance on matters related to workers’ comp, be sure to get in touch with a qualified workers’ comp attorney in Colorado. Choose the Law Offices of W. Dan Mahoney, P.C. to discuss your unique situation during a consultation. Although being terminated while receiving workers’ comp can be quite a shock, there may be certain legal steps you can take to mitigate consequences. Get in touch today to get started.