A worker gets fired from her job

Can My Employer Fire Me If I File for Workers’ Comp?

By Jeremy Bradford
Founding Partner

Are you feeling the heat at work after filing for workers’ compensation? Sadly, far too many employers put injured workers in fear of losing their jobs just for exercising their rights after workplace injury. But here’s some good news: North Carolina has laws to protect you from retaliation by your employer. Bradford Law’s workers’ compensation knowledge can guide you through these turbulent times. We understand how challenging it is to stand up for your rights, especially when your job is on the line. This blog will shed light on your protections under North Carolina law and how you can secure your job while protecting your future.

Duality of Claims: 

“Duality of Claims” refers to a situation where an employee may have multiple legal claims arising from the same set of circumstances, often involving both workers’ compensation claims and claims related to employment law, such as wrongful termination or discrimination. 

Here’s how the duality of claims typical works: 

  1. Workers’ Compensation Claim: When an Employee suffers an injury or illness in the course and scope of their employment, they may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensations laws provide compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, permanent impairment and other related costs resulting from the workplace injury or illness. The purpose of workers’ compensation law is to provide a streamline process for compensating employees for work-related injuries without requiring them to prove fault on the part of their employer. Bradford Law can guide you through North Carolina’s complicated Workers’ compensation laws.
  1. Employment Law Claims: In addition to workers’ compensation benefits, an employee may have legal claims under employment law if they believe their employer engaged in wrongful conduct related to the workplace injury or illness. For example, if an employer terminates an employee in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim, the employee may have a separate claim for wrongful termination. Similarly, if the employer discriminates against the employee based on their disability resulting from a workplace injury, the employee may have a claim under disability discrimination laws. Bradford Law connects our clients with attorneys specializing in these areas of law to assess the validity of the claims and to facilitate obtaining representation. Further, Bradford law effectively collaborates with these attorney’s by offering essential evidence and assistance, and vice versa

North Carolina Law Prohibits Retaliation for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim

Let’s start with the critical question: Can employers fire someone for filing a workers’ compensation claim? No, they can’t. The North Carolina Department of Labor points out that the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA) specifically prohibits employers from firing employees for filing a workers’ compensation claim. REDA also prohibits employers from taking other negative actions against their workers for filing a workers’ comp claim, such as:

  • Reducing Hours: Employers might try to reduce the number of hours the employee is allowed to work, significantly impacting their earnings.
  • Demotion: An employee might face a demotion to a lower position or one with less responsibility, often without a valid reason.
  • Pay Cut: An employer might reduce the employee’s salary or wage rate, affecting their financial stability.
  • Exclusion from Projects: Employers might exclude the employee from important meetings, projects, or opportunities for professional growth.
  • Unfavorable Scheduling: The employer might assign the employee to less desirable shifts or schedules.
  • Increased Scrutiny: The employee might experience heightened surveillance, criticism, or nitpicking of their work performance.
  • Denial of Benefits or Promotions: An employer might unfairly deny the employee access to certain benefits or withhold promotions.
  • Hostile Work Environment: The employer or coworkers might create a hostile or uncomfortable work environment for the employee, including harassment or isolation.
  • Unjustified Negative Evaluations: The employee might receive negative performance evaluations that are not reflective of their actual work.
  • Forced Transfer: The employer might force the employee to transfer to a less desirable location or position without a valid reason.

Proving Retaliation Is Challenging in North Carolina

Proving retaliation by employers when employees file for workers’ compensation can be challenging, especially in North Carolina, where at-will employment laws are in effect. Under these laws, employers can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, as long as it’s not illegal. (For example, employers cannot fire someone based on their race, sex, etc.) This gives employers wide latitude in their employment decisions, making it difficult for employees to prove that their workers’ comp claim was the real reason they were fired.

For non-contract workers, who don’t have the protection of a negotiated employment agreement, this challenge is even more pronounced. They often lack clear documentation or contractual terms that might otherwise support a claim of wrongful treatment or retaliation. This ambiguity can make it hard to distinguish between legitimate business decisions and retaliatory actions.

Additionally, employers are unlikely to explicitly state that their actions are in retaliation for a workers’ comp claim, as doing so would violate workers’ rights laws. Instead, they might justify their actions with reasons like restructuring, poor performance reviews that might seem subjective, or other business-related excuses. To prove an employer illegally retaliated against an employee who filed a workers’ comp claim, the employee or their legal representative must gather substantial evidence to prove a direct link between the workers’ comp claim and the employer’s retaliatory action.

How Our Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Can Help

The duality of claims arises because the same set of facts or circumstances can give rise to multiple legal claims with different legal standards and remedies. Employees may pursue both workers’ compensation benefits and employment law claims simultaneously or sequentially, depending on the specific circumstances of their case.

It’s essential for employees to understand their rights and options when faced with a workplace injury or illness, including the possibility of pursuing both workers’ compensation benefits and employment law claims to fully protect their interests. Consulting with the experience of Bradford Law can help employees navigate the complexities of the legal system and pursue all available avenues for compensation and justice. Contact us immediately if you have been injured on the job and believe your employer is retaliating against you for exercising your fundamental rights. You deserve experienced, committed legal help, and we’re here to provide it.

About the Author
I am Jeremy Bradford, the founding and managing attorney of Bradford Law. From my offices in Charlotte, NC, I travel all across North Carolina helping injured people fight against insurance companies, in what could be life-altering circumstances. I have made a point to develop strong relationships with my clients. I take the trust my clients put in me personally and put myself into every case. If my client calls, my client will always be able to speak directly with me. You will get to know me as we work our way through the personal injury process. So when we make recommendations on whether to settle or go to trial, you will know your best interests are always at heart.