No one goes to work expecting to be injured on the job, but it happens. If you work in a warehouse, you could hurt your back by picking up a package that’s heavier than it looks. Servers in busy restaurants, rushing to check on an overdue order, can slip on a spilled soft drink, fall, and fracture an ankle.
The New Jersey workers’ compensation system is designed to protect you and your employer if this happens. Your medical costs and up to 75% of your wages are covered while you heal, and your employer avoids a lawsuit.
Unfortunately, some employers don’t see or appreciate the benefit of this compromise. From their perspective, they still have to pay you during your absence and deal with issues like lost productivity and increased premiums. For them, it’s simpler to just get rid of you after you file a workers’ comp claim in NJ.
Is This Legal?
New Jersey is an ‘at will’ state. What this means is that your employer can let you go at any time and for any reason unless that reason is illegal. When they fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim, they are breaking the law.
They know it too, which is why many of them come up with another explanation for terminating an injured worker. Unless you have an employment contract (e.g., through a union), you can theoretically be fired even while you are out recovering from a work-related injury. They simply won’t tell you that they’re letting you go because you made a workers’ comp claim.
Retaliatory Termination is Illegal in New Jersey
NJ workers’ compensation laws prohibit employers from discriminating against an employee because they filed or attempted to file for workers’ compensation. Examples of retaliatory actions include but are not limited to:
- Disciplinary measures taken against you but no one else
- Wage reduction
- Shift reassignment that creates a hardship
- Denying you a bonus you earned
- Terminating your employment
If you believe that you have been fired or are facing adverse employment actions like demotion or wage reduction because you used the workers’ comp system, you should speak to an NJ workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible.
How Can You Tell If You Were Fired for Claiming Workers’ Compensation?
If you were fired after a workers comp claim, you might suspect that taking this protected action was the real reason. While employers in New Jersey do not have to tell you why they were terminating your employment, any explanation that is suspiciously vague or clearly false is a sign that you may have a claim against them for retaliatory termination. You should talk to an experienced NJ workers’ compensation lawyer who can help you determine if you can take legal action against your employer.
Compensation for NJ Workers’ Comp Discrimination
New Jersey law states that if you are retaliated against or fired after a workers’ comp claim, your employer must give you your job back and compensate you for any loss of wages. This type of retaliation or discrimination is also punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, up to 60 days in jail, or both. In addition, you may be able to file a claim for compensatory and punitive damages.
Can You Claim Workers’ Comp After Being Fired?
Many New Jersey workers have questions about filing a workers compensation claim after termination. If your employer fires you after you report your injury, are you left on the hook for your medical bills and lost wages?
Not necessarily. The fact that you were terminated doesn’t mean that you are automatically barred from filing a workers’ comp claim for an injury that happened while you were still employed. However, you must have informed your employer about the injury within the required time frame, which is generally 14 days in New Jersey. You will also need some evidence that you were hurt at work before you were fired. This could be one or more of the following:
- Medical records
- A statement from someone who witnessed the accident
- Video footage from workplace surveillance cameras
Can You Still Receive Workers’ Comp Checks if You Were Fired?
Yes. Even if your employer terminates you while you are receiving workers’ compensation, you can still collect wage loss payments until your doctor clears you to return to work.
We Fight for Injured Workers in New Jersey
If you believe that your employer retaliated against you for filing an NJ workers’ compensation claim, contact Bross & Frankel today for a free consultation. We will review the circumstances of your dismissal and, if you have a case, help you pursue the compensation that you are entitled to under the law. To learn more, contact our office today at 856-210-3345, or reach out online.