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As a workers' compensation attorney, one the questions I am often asked is whether an employer can fire, demote, punish, or otherwise retaliate against an employee for filing a worker's compensation claim. The brief answer is: No! Unfortunately, some employers may react to claims in this manne. Individuals who are not represented by experienced counsel may find themselves in a difficult situation when dealing with an employer who takes such reprehensible action. If you are thinking about filing a workers' compensation claim, but find yourself hesitant to do so for fear of retaliation--or if you have already become the victim of retaliation--I hope you find this post helpful.
So. . . Can I be fired for filing a Workers' Compensation claim?
No (not legally, anyway). Pursuant to the North Carolina "Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act," employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against you for exercising or threatening to exercise your rights under the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act.
What are Retaliatory Discrimination Claims?
A retaliatory discharge claim is a cause of action brought under the North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act ("REDA") against an employer for violating the provisions of that Act. An employer is in violation of the Act if they discriminate against an employee or take any retaliatory action against an employee who, in good faith, exercises (or threatens to exercise) one of his or her enumerated rights under North Carolina law. Notably, a workers' rights under the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act are only one category of activities protected under REDA--other examples include activities and complaints arising from the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina, the Mine Safety and Health Act, discrimination related to the sickle cell or hemoglobin C trait, National Guard Reemployment Rights, or discrimination against persons based on genetic testing or information.
What should I do if I've been subject to discrimination or retaliation because I filed a workers' compensation claim?
File a complaint with the North Carolina Department of Labor within 180 Days of the alleged violation.
Await a response from the Department of Labor, Employment Discrimination Bureau. This may take up to 90 Days.
If the NCDOL issues a right-to-sue letter, you may pursue a civil action. Alternatively, the NCDOL may attempt to remedy the violation through informal methods. If those informal methods are unsuccessful, the Commission may then issue a right-to-sue letter. At that time, you may pursue a civil action.
• Time is of essence,
• You are entitled to protection under the law, and
• You may need to speak with an experienced attorney in order to best protect your rights.
Next steps . . .
If you found this information helpful, please follow our blog CarolinaCompensation™. If you are a North Carolina resident or worker and in need of legal assistance, please Contact Bowman Law PLLC for a free case uation, or call (336) 470-0177 to speak to Attorney Joe Bowman directly.