When you’re injured at work, you need access to medical care and may need income to replace lost earnings while you recover. The Ohio workers’ compensation system was created to ensure that employees have access to that assistance when they’re hurt on the job, but some fear to make use of the system. Employees may be concerned that “rocking the boat” with a workers’ compensation claim will alienate the employer, leading to job loss or other punitive treatment at work.
While it’s true that an Ohio employer can usually fire a worker for any reason or no reason, there are exceptions. Some of those exceptions are well known, such as race discrimination. One less-known exception is that Ohio law prohibits an employer from terminating an employee or engaging in other punitive behaviors because that employee “filed a claim or instituted, pursued or testified in any proceedings under the workers’ compensation act for an injury or occupational disease which occurred in the course of and arising out of his employment with that employer.”
Retaliatory Firing after a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Of course, the fact that it’s against the law to terminate an employee who files a workers’ compensation claim doesn’t mean that no employer ever does so. However, if an employee is unlawfully terminated because he or she filed for workers’ compensation benefits or fought for benefits the employer or insurance company disputed, the wrongfully terminated employee may sue the employer.
Employers know this, and so are generally cautious about firing an employee in the wake of a workers’ compensation claim or while a claim is in process. This caution typically extends to other actions, as well, such as demoting an employee, cutting hours, or otherwise penalizing him or her for pursuing workers’ compensation benefits.
Remedies for Wrongful Termination Due to Workers’ Compensation Claims
An employee who has been wrongfully terminated in retaliation for filing, pursuing, or cooperating in the investigation of a workers’ compensation claim can file suit against the employer to force reinstatement with back pay to the date of the wrongful termination. An employee who was demoted or otherwise penalized can pursue lost wages. For example, if the employee’s hours were cut in retaliation, he or she is entitled to pursue compensation for the wages that would have been paid if the employee’s schedule had not been altered. Similarly, if an employee is demoted, he or she may be entitled to the difference between the wages actually paid and those that would have been paid in his or her original position.
An employee who has been the victim of wrongful termination or has otherwise been subjected to punitive action because of a workers’ compensation claim must act quickly to protect his or her rights. The employer must be notified in writing of the violation within 90 days, and the claim must be filed within 180 days of the punitive action.
Workers’ Compensation is Your Right
The Ohio workers’ compensation system provides important protections to workers who have been injured on the job or fallen victim to an occupational illness. Allowing an employer to discourage you from pursuing your rights and receiving the benefits you need to pursue treatment defeats the purpose of the law and leaves you vulnerable when you are most in need of assistance.
If you need help pursuing workers’ compensation benefits, schedule a free consultation to learn more about how Dworken & Bernstein can help you.