Any time you have experienced an injury at work — whether due to a simple slip and fall or an unsafe work environment — you always have the legal right to file a workers’ compensation claim. It is the duty of your employer and their insurance company to process and manage the claim appropriately, as well as give you both time and reasonable accommodations to recover from what happened.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world, which means that not all employers have your best interests at heart. Sometimes workers find themselves being treated unfairly after filing a workers’ comp claim. When an employer engages in adverse action against an injured employee who has filed for workers’ compensation, this is called employer retaliation, and it is illegal in Pennsylvania.
“Adverse action” isn’t always limited to an employer firing an employee. Retaliation can look very different depending on different situations, so it’s important to be aware of what it can entail. Here are several examples of workers’ compensation retaliation to watch out for.
Limited or Inaccessible Hours
Whether a Notice of Compensation Payable (NCP) or a Denial has been issued (see also: What is an NCP?), or you have recovered from your work injury enough to come back, have you suddenly noticed that your 40-hour weeks have become 30- or 20-hour ones? Or has your boss repeatedly scheduled you for the night shift, even though they know you aren’t available during those hours? In some of these situations, especially if you work in an industry with limited protections and a variable schedule (such as food service or hospitality), your employer may be retaliating against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim by limiting or altering your hours.
This type of retaliation can be difficult to prove since sometimes these limitations result from legitimate scheduling changes. Before you proceed with any legal action, speak with your company’s human resources department about the matter and see if they can offer any solutions. Be sure to carefully document any and all conversations you have with everyone involved, including supervisors and HR team members.
Denial of Benefits
Being injured at work is never a reason for your employer to reduce or remove your benefits. “Benefits” may include access to health insurance, 401k plans, retirement accounts, dental or vision insurance, vacation time, sick days, and other “workplace perks.” If you are being denied your benefits as a result of a workers’ compensation claim, it’s time to get in touch with HR. It is their job to connect employees with workplace resources, and they are required to take care of the matter promptly and professionally. If your company’s HR department is nonresponsive or appears to be complicit in delaying or denying your benefits, it’s time to seek help from a work injury attorney.
Position Change or Relocation
Sometimes, employers who do not want to deal with taking care of injured employees will try to discourage them from continuing to work for the company. Employers may do this through tactics such as requiring an employee to move to an inconvenient new location or suddenly overloading them with excessive work. Of course, there are genuine situations where an employer might ask you to relocate or take on additional duties, but if this seems to happen right after you’ve filed a workers’ comp claim (or right after you’ve returned to work), it’s worth investigating the situation further.
Demotion, Suspension, or Termination
Since Pennsylvania is an “employed at-will” state, your employer can legally fire you if they have just cause. However, filing for workers’ compensation is not one of these causes. If you file a claim for workers’ compensation and your employer fires you — or you’re suddenly demoted or suspended from your position — this may very well be a case of employer retaliation. If you’re in PA and have been terminated as a result of retaliation, an attorney can help you make what’s called a “wrongful discharge” claim.
Are You Experiencing Workers’ Comp Retaliation? Get Help Today
The bottom line is this: In the State of Pennsylvania, it is illegal for your employer to fire or demote you, attempt to coerce you into quitting, or otherwise discriminate against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim. If you have been injured on the job and think you’re being retaliated against for filing a workers’ compensation claim, contact Robinson Law as soon as possible. Paula Robinson of Robinson Law can help you with your actual workers’ compensation case and can guide you to further help with any potential retaliation aspect of your case. Get in touch online or by phone today to set up a free consultation.