Atticus offers free, high-quality workers' compensation advice to those injured at work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience, and help thousands of Americans get the benefits they deserve each year.
One of the most common questions our lawyers hear is whether or not someone can get fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim. The short answer is no. Your employer can’t legally fire you just because you file a workers’ comp claim. Protecting your rights isn’t always easy, though. At-will employment laws give your company the right to fire you at any time. But even if you lose your job, you will still receive all of the medical coverage and weekly benefit payments that you’re entitled to from workers’ comp.
In this guide, we’ll explain your rights when you apply for workers’ compensation and what to do if your employer challenges those rights.
Can you get fired for applying for workers’ comp?
Under workers’ compensation law, your employer can’t legally fire you just because you filed a claim. This is true in every state and for every company.
You’re protected from getting fired as retaliation in these situations:
You get injured or sick at work while properly carrying out your job duties.
You file a workers’ comp claim after a legitimate work injury, such as an accident, a repetitive-strain injury, or exposure to a harmful chemical.
If you do get fired as retaliation for filing a claim, you can take legal action against your former employer. For more specific guidance on your options, contact an employment lawyer. However, if you need help with your workers’ comp benefits, talking to a workers’ comp lawyer is your best option.
See what workers' comp benefits you qualify for.
Can you be fired while on workers' comp?
While your employer can’t fire you as retaliation for filing a claim, they can still fire you for another reason, as long as it isn't discriminatory. In most states, your employer also doesn’t need to give a clear reason when firing you because of at-will employment laws. These laws sometimes make it hard to prove whether you were fired wrongfully as retaliation, or if your employer had other reasons for letting you go.
At-will employment allows an employer to fire someone at any time for any reason or for no reason at all. The key exceptions are that a company can’t discriminate or retaliate against employees. Every state except for Montana has at-will employment laws (though Montana employees are still effectively at-will for the first 12 months of their employment).
Since companies can fire employees at any time, your employer could fire you after you apply for workers’ comp and then claim they fired you for a different official reason. At that point, the responsibility would be on you to take the case to court to prove that the real cause was your claim. Unfortunately, these cases can be hard to win unless you can clearly prove that the firing was retaliation.
It’s worth repeating that as an employee, you have a right to workers’ comp benefits after a workplace injury. Your employer cannot legally fire you over your claim and even if you do lose your job, you will continue to receive the benefits you’re entitled to. If you do face issues getting your benefits, a workers’ compensation lawyer will help you fight to get your full benefits.
Some unions may also protect their members from certain at-will firing, so reach out to your union representative if you have specific questions.
Yes, you can file for workers' comp after leaving your job, whether you quit or got fired. However, you can still only qualify if you're an eligible employee, your injury happened at work, and you notified your employer of the injury within the required time frame.
If you believe you were fired because you filed a workers’ comp claim, you can take legal action against your former employer. Your state workers’ comp board may offer guidance on next steps, but talking with a local employment lawyer is also a good idea. They’ll know your state’s laws and can recommend the best course of action for your situation.
Keep in mind that a workers’ comp lawyer cannot help you fight a wrongful termination, but they can still help if you’re having a difficult time getting your full workers’ comp benefits.
Get help navigating workers’ comp
Workers’ comp is complicated and if you have any questions about how it works, Atticus can help. Start with our full guide to workers’ compensation. If you want personalized advice or need a professional’s help, Atticus can connect you with a workers’ comp lawyer. Getting connected is free and even if you hire our lawyer, you never pay anything until after you win benefits. Get started with our short workers’ comp quiz and we’ll reach out to learn more about your situation.
Common questions about getting fired on workers’ comp
Can I get fired for filing a workers' comp claim?
Injured workers have a right to workers’ compensation benefits, and you cannot legally get fired as retaliation for filing a workers’ comp claim.
Can I get fired for talking to a workers’ comp lawyer?
No, your employer cannot fire you just because you talked to a workers’ comp lawyer. You’re entitled to talk with a lawyer about your legal rights, even if your employer doesn’t want you to.
Can I get fired while on workers’ comp?
It’s possible to get fired or laid off from your job while on workers’ comp because every state (except Montana) has at-will employment laws. But if your company discriminated against you or fired you as retaliation for filing a claim, you may have an employment law case.
What is at-will employment?
At-will employment is a situation where employers can terminate employees at any time for any reason at all, without needing to give an explanation. Every state except for Montana has at-will employment (though Montana employees are effectively at-will for their first 12 months of employment).
How long ago did you get an injury or illness at work?
Victoria Muñoz is an attorney on Atticus’s Workers' Compensation team. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of Stanford Law School, and has counseled hundreds of people seeking workers' compensation. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and spending time with her pup.
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