An employer who is stopping or discouraging you from seeking workers’ compensation for a work injury is most likely acting illegally. Unfortunately, this happens more often than it should. Employers have an unavoidable conflict of interest because of how the workman’s compensation system is set up. The more workplace injuries that occur, the more expensive it is going to be for the company.
Simply put, employers don’t want to spend their profits paying for workplace injuries. Even the best of employers find themselves torn between meeting the company’s bottom line and taking care of its employees.
As a result, some employers find themselves illegally avoiding worker’s compensation claims. The proper way to avoid workplace injuries is obviously to prevent them before they happen. Employers should be using safety procedures, investing in safe equipment, and training employees. Problems start to arise, however, when an employer goes too far and uses illegal measures to avoid work comp claims. In Minnesota, employees are protected from discriminatory practices by employers who try to stop or discourage an employee from seeking worker’s compensation benefits. These discriminatory practices by employers fall into three categories:
- Getting fired because you have requested or are receiving workers’ compensation
- Threatening to fire because you have requested or are receiving workers’ compensation
- Intentionally obstructing an employee from requesting workers’ compensation
When an injured employee tells me that he or she has experienced one of the above situations, a huge red flag goes up. To help you understand if your situation falls in one of the above categories, let’s look at each one more in-depth and separately.
Fired/Terminated Because of Work Comp
If you were fired from your job because you applied for or are receiving workman’s compensation benefits, this is a huge red flag.
In Minnesota, workers’ compensation laws make it illegal for an employer to terminate you simply because you are seeking or receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Many employers are aware that they cannot fire an employee in retaliation for seeking or receiving workman’s compensation. However, it still happens.
An employer may fire you and blatantly say it is because of your worker’s compensation claim, but that situation is rare. More commonly, an employer will use a pretextual reason to fire you. They will claim you are being fired for a legitimate reason when they are really just terminating your employment because of your workman’s compensation claim.
Keep in mind though that you are immune from being fired if you are seeking or receiving work comp benefits. Employers can still fire you for other reasons. If you are fired and your employer says you were fired for a non-workers’ compensation related reason, you may still have a case if you think your employer really fired you because of your worker’s compensation claim.
Threatened to Fire/Terminate Because of Worker’s Compensation
This situation is more common than retaliatory termination cases for two reasons.
- First, employers may think they can get away with threats more easily than actual firing.
- Second, supervisors may not be educated about the seriousness of threatening to fire or terminate an injured employee because of a possible worker’s compensation claim. It is your employer’s responsibility to make sure that its supervisors do not threaten to fire an employee in retaliation for workers’ compensation benefits. Ignorance is not an excuse.
If your employer has threatened to fire you for seeking workman’s compensation, you may have a retaliation claim. A threat to fire can take multiple forms, and usually no two employees have the same experience. An employer who has threatened to fire you in retaliation for a possible workers’ compensation claim is a red flag that requires a thorough assessment of your situation.
Intentionally Obstructing Your Workman’s Compensation Claim
Even more common that actual termination and threaten to fire cases are intentional obstruction cases.
Each case is different because there are so many ways an employer can intentionally obstruct you from getting your work comp benefits. Here are a few examples:
- Your supervisor tells you that the company cannot afford a workers’ compensation claim, so you cannot file a First Report of Injury or make a claim.
- Your manager threatens to make your work-life miserable if you report your injury.
- Your employer cuts your pay if you make a workers’ compensation claim.
Obstruction cases in particular require an investigation by a knowledgeable work comp attorney because of the variety of ways an employer can obstruct workers compensation claims.
Next Steps: Make a Plan of Action
If you have experienced any of these red flags, your relationship with your employer has probably been strained over your workplace injury. It is frustrating and unfair when your employer has stopped fighting for you and instead is fighting against you, especially when you were injured while simply doing your job. Because an on-the-job injury can have long term consequences for your physical and financial well-being, it is important that you fight for your rights now so that you minimize the injury’s negative effects in the future.
If this “red flag” has brought concerns to your attention about your workers’ compensation claim or you believe you are not receiving the workers comp benefits you should be receiving, we encourage you to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Our attorneys have extensive experience in handling workman’s compensation claims and are available to discuss your case. To speak with an attorney on the workers’ compensation team at Heimerl & Lammers, contact us at 612.294.2200.