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If you have been injured at work, you may wonder whether filing a workers’ compensation claim will jeopardize your job. Most people are rightfully concerned about job security. Even though you deserve compensation for your on-the-job-injury, you may be understandably wary of filing a claim if such a claim can affect your employment.
Fortunately, you are protected from this type of retaliatory action by the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act. Per this act, it is illegal for a company to fire an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act requires companies to compensate employees for certain work-related injuries. Likewise, the North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act was passed by the legislature to protect you from retaliation for filing a claim.
If your employer does fire you illegally for filing such a workers’ compensation claim, you should file a Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act complaint against your employer. The law requires you to file your complaint within 180 days of the retaliatory event (e.g., termination or demotion ). Once you file a complaint, the NC Department of Labor, Employment Discrimination Bureau, investigates. Steps are taken to reimburse you for losses and help you get your job back, but you do have to prove that you lost your job due to filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Now, this is where things can get complicated. North Carolina is an at-will employment state. This means that a company can fire anyone at-will with or without cause. It can be hard sometimes to prove that you were fired in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Keep in mind that most employers know that they are not allowed to fire you for an improper purpose, and no employer wants to take action that will likely result in an investigation by the NC Department of Labor or a lawsuit should the Employment Discrimination Bureau issue a right to sue letter.
There are several federal laws that also offer protection to injured workers, including the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which in some circumstances offers up to 12 weeks job protection in the event you cannot work. If you think that you might qualify for FMLA leave, talk to someone in your Human Resources (HR) department. The employer may require that you submit paperwork regarding your injury.
You are protected by law against losing your job and should not let this fear stop you from filing a workers’ compensation claim if you feel that you are entitled to compensation.
You should seek legal assistance when filing a workers’ compensation claim in order to have the best chance of receiving the benefits to which you are entitled and also to have a legal team behind you in case your employer does take retaliatory action.
If you believe you have been retaliated against for filing a workers’ compensation claim or if you have additional questions regarding your workers’ compensation claim, contact us today for a FREE initial consultation.