Fired While on Workers’ Compensation: Can It Happen To Me in S.C.?

man filling workers compensation form

Sometimes an unscrupulous employer will decide that the easiest way to limit the cost of a  workers’ compensation claim is to fire the injured worker. Anyone on workers’ compensation who finds themselves in this situation should contact a workers’ comp attorney right away.

It is against the law in South Carolina to fire an employee simply because the injured worker has opened a workers’ compensation claim. This is illegal retaliation. But South Carolina is an “employment-at-will” state and the law leans heavily in employers’ favor. There are several ways you can legally lose your job while on workers’ comp.

An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer at Joye Law Firm can dig into the circumstances of your termination and protect your rights if you have been illegally fired. You may be entitled to be reinstated if you were improperly dismissed. Our workers’ compensation attorneys at Joye Law Firm are committed to fighting for injured workers.

Losing Your Job While on Workers’ Comp

Workers’ compensation is an insurance program that provides paid medical care and financial benefits for employees who are injured on the job. With few exceptions, an injured worker in South Carolina can receive paid medical treatment and receive weekly checks while out of work to cover a portion of lost wages, regardless of who is responsible for the injury.

The objective of workers’ compensation is to help the employee recover so that he or she may return to their job duties. Under S.C. workers’ compensation rules, the worker’s treating doctor can eventually declare the worker has recovered sufficiently to return to work.

South Carolina law recognizes certain business reasons for a business to dismiss an employee.

They include:

  • Inability to operate without a key position filled. If the injured employee performed a job essential to the business’s operations, the owner may replace him or her instead of letting the business suffer. If there is not another suitable position for the returning worker, the employer is not required to retain them.
  • The returning worker is no longer capable of performing the job.
  • There’s no position available that accommodates the worker’s injury-related disability or medically prescribed work restrictions, including light-duty work or a permanent position.
  • The cost of refitting a workspace to accommodate the employee’s temporary or permanent disabilities would be an unreasonable financial hardship on the employer.
  • The employer decides that the worker’s job performance does not meet established standards.

However, a business that fires an injured worker for filing a workers’ comp claim may try to defend its action by citing one of the business reasons for not retaining an injured worker who has filed for benefits or is on workers’ compensation leave. If you are facing this situation, it’s helpful to have one of our experienced workers’ comp attorneys review the facts and discuss your rights as an injured worker.

If you are let go from employment because you are physically unable to perform your job, you should continue to receive workers’ comp disability benefits until your treating physician reports that your status has changed.

We Fight Wrongful Termination Over Workers’ Comp Claims in SC

In South Carolina, the employer may, in theory, end the employment relationship without giving a reason. However, public policy exceptions to at-will employment make it illegal for an employer to fire an employee if doing so breaks the law. This includes firing someone for seeking workers’ compensation.

You may seek reinstatement if you have been fired based on having filed for workers’ compensation in South Carolina. Whether you want to get your job back, negotiate a settlement or pursue a lawsuit, a lawyer from Joye Law Firm can help you assert your legal rights.

We would investigate why you were let go from your job to determine whether the employer’s stated reason was valid. In addition to interviewing multiple parties at your workplace to determine the sequence of events leading to your dismissal, we would seek a court order for access to certain records, such as:

  • Job descriptions
  • Organizational charts and employee headcounts
  • Employee handbooks
  • Records of pay raises
  • Records of disciplinary actions
  • Performance reviews.

We would obtain your medical records to establish your fitness for work, if that is an issue, and could help you obtain additional assessments if necessary to strengthen your claim.

It is important for you to keep all documentation you have related to your injury and your employment status, particularly correspondence (mail or email) between you and your employer, human resources or others at your workplace.

We would investigate your employer’s claims and seek any available evidence that rebuts their assertions and builds a solid case for you. Sometimes our investigation itself causes an employer to rethink their position and come up with a solution that keeps our client on the job.

Settling Your Workers’ Compensation Claim

It is easy to understand that you might not want to return to a job if you knew your employer wanted to fire you.

In such a case, we could work to settle and close your workers’ compensation claim. This is a negotiated agreement that results in a lump-sum payment in lieu of continuing benefit checks. Its terms must be approved by the S.C. Workers’ Compensation Commission.

In South Carolina, there are three types of settlement:

  • A Form 16A agreement, which continues to pay for any further medical treatment recommended by the treating physician and allows one year to file a change-of-condition claim and obtain additional medical benefits.
  • A so-called “clincher” agreement, which typically ends all benefits.
  • An indemnity-only clincher, which provides for ongoing medical treatment.

We would thoroughly review your claim and discuss options with you. As you approach “maximum medical improvement,” your costs and losses related to your work injury and appropriate workers’ comp benefits would be apparent. Negotiating a settlement that satisfies your costs and losses to the fullest extent allowed under S.C. workers’ compensation regulations could allow you to put this chapter behind you so you can move on with your financial stability ensured.

Contact Our South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers

You have a legal right to workers’ compensation benefits if injured on the job and to return to work if and when you recover. If your employer terminates your employment or seeks to end benefits, contact Joye Law Firm for a free consultation with one of our workers’ compensation attorneys.

Our firm has offices in North Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Columbia and Clinton, and we represent work injury victims throughout South Carolina, including Horry County, Richland County, Laurens County and Lexington County. Please call us at (888) 324-3100 or fill out this online case evaluation form now.