Fired after a work injury? Know your rights.

Sometimes, something beyond your control happens at work and you get injured. Although you may do the right thing by reporting the injury and filing for workers' compensation, on some occasions you can return to work and receive a pink slip. Is it legal for an employer to fire you after you file a claim? What can you do if it happens?

At-will employment in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, a worker is employed "at-will," which means they have the right to quit at any time for any reason. Likewise, the employer has the right to terminate an employee at any time and for nearly any reason. However, they must give a legitimate reason why after a worker was fired, including if it happened after they were injured on the job. If you were injured at work because you did something that violated workplace policy, that is grounds for a termination.

What you shouldn't be fired for

However, employers can't discharge a worker for reasons that violate state or federal law. A workplace can't punish a worker for filing a workers' compensation claim by discharging them. However, some employers have discriminated against injured employees by firing them for filing a claim or shortly after they return to work. In Pennsylvania, a worker can't be fired for:

  • Refusing to do something that breaks the law
  • Serving jury duty
  • Filing for workers' compensation or unemployment benefits
  • Giving truthful testimony
  • Performing lawful duties

After returning from a work injury, your employer is required to make reasonable accommodations for you to still complete your work. However, if your accident makes you unable to do your job even with some accommodations, your employer can discharge you.

If you believe your employer has retaliated against you after you received workers' comp for an injury, you have options.

How to file a retaliation claim

If you believe your employer retaliated against you, it's important to find an attorney who can help you determine your case and the best way forward. You have two years to file a lawsuit, and you have 180 days after the retaliatory act to file a complaint under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law. In addition, you can contact the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in Harrisburg, or the other regional offices in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, depending on your location.

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