After an injury, you may wonder, “does my employer have to hold my job while I’m on workers’ com?” Your employer does not have to keep your position open while you are receiving workers’ comp benefits in Illinois. The employer can fill your position with someone else and provide you with an appropriate replacement position. Illinois workers’ compensation laws do not offer injured workers additional job protections. Federal employment laws, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), offer injured workers some form of job protection.
Can My Employer Terminate Me While I’m on Workers’ Comp?
Unless your contract states otherwise, at-will employment allows your employer to sack you for any reason that does not contravene your civil rights. In other words, your employer cannot fire you just because you have initiated a workers’ comp claim for legitimate on-the-job injuries. At-will employment also allows you to relinquish your position willingly at any time and for any reason.
The following are legal grounds that an employer can use to terminate your employment while you are on workers’ comp:
- Substandard job performance
- Company restructuring
- The employer renders your position redundant
- The employer is experiencing financial problems not related to your job performance.
Although these are legal reasons for terminating your employment, the employer is more likely to let you go due to your workers’ comp claim. The employer will not reveal the real reason for your termination to avoid a potential lawsuit.
Get a workers’ compensation lawyer on board if you suspect your employment termination was due to reporting an on-the-job injury or filing a workers’ comp claim. A lawyer can investigate your case and collect sufficient evidence to prove that your employer engaged in retaliatory termination. If the lawsuit is successful, you will receive your workers’ comp benefits and further monetary damages for unfair termination.
Will I Lose My Benefits If I’m Fired While on Workers’ Comp?
You still have the right to workers’ compensation benefits even if you get terminated while on workers’ comp. You will continue receiving your benefits throughout the recovery process, provided you have a valid work injury or illness.
Workers’ compensation offers financial support to employees who cannot continue performing their job duties because of their on-the-job injuries or illnesses. Workers’ compensation benefits include medical expenses coverage, lost earnings, disability, and vocational rehabilitation. These benefits enable you to cover your everyday costs and other expenses stemming from your work injury or illness.
Your doctor will lift some restrictions and allow you to return to work after you have attained a certain level of recovery. You should provide your employer with a copy of your release forms. The employer may decide to let you resume work in your previous position or a new suitable position. You should continue collecting your benefits even if the employer opts to let you go.
Federal Employment Laws That Provide Job Protection
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
An on-the-job injury or illness may result in a long-term impairment that meets the ADA’s definition of a disability. ADA requires employers with at least 15 employees to offer reasonable accommodations to disabled employees to enable them to perform their jobs effectively.
Reasonable accommodations refer to modifications to the job or workplace that will enable disabled workers to perform their job’s responsibilities. These modifications might include adjusting the workspace’s physical structure, including broadening hallways, offering specially modified work equipment, and installing audiovisual fire alarms. They might also include more days off from work.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Under this federal law, employers with at least 50 workers must offer workers with serious medical conditions a 12-week unpaid, job-protected leave. This law allows you to return to your pre-leave position or a similar position once your FMLA leave ends. Your employer can either keep your position open or create a similar position after receiving a notice of your return.
The employer must return you to work on the date specified on your notice of return. In the event of a sudden change in your return date, the employer must reinstate you within two workdays. Your employer may require a written statement from your doctor, saying that you are medically fit to resume work, before reinstating you.
There are a few exceptions to the FMLA. You are ineligible for reinstatement if your employer declared your position redundant despite taking leave. You are also disqualified from reinstatement if you obtained your FMLA leave fraudulently.
How Do I Know if My Employer is Firing Me for Initiating a Workers’ Comp Claim?
Some signs might indicate that your employer is firing you for making a workers’ comp claim. You need to know these signs to take appropriate legal action if you get fired unfairly after reporting your injuries or initiating a workers’ comp claim. You also need to understand workers’ compensation facts to protect your rights to workers’ comp benefits. The following are some signs that your employer is firing you for bringing a workers’ comp claim:
Take note of your employer’s reaction from when you reported your work injury and intention to initiate a workers’ comp claim. Perhaps the employer was visibly angry and threatened you with unspecified consequences. Maybe the employer discouraged you from moving forward with your claim.
Timing of Your Firing
Getting fired immediately after reporting your work injury or illness is a common sign of retaliatory termination. Your grounds for retaliatory termination become stronger if you are the only worker fired.
False or Vague Termination Reasons
An employer may give a false or vague reason for terminating your employment. A lawyer can review your termination letter to determine whether the explanation provided is justifiable.
Unfair Treatment at Work
A sudden change in your work situation may be a sign of retaliation. Your employer or supervisor may, for instance, alter your job description to make it hard for you to perform your work properly.