It’s a common mistake and many people think they cannot be fired while they are on workers’ compensation. While it is illegal for your employer to fire you in retaliation for you filing a workers’ compensation claim, few employers are stupid enough to tell you that’s what they are doing. The flip side of the coin is that you don’t have immunity while you’re on workers’ compensation. So if there is a layoff when your company is downsizing you can be laid off despite your status in the workers’ compensation system. Similarly if your employer cannot accommodate your restrictions they aren’t required to hold your position indefinitely. They can replace you. Finally, if you mess up you can get fired for cause.
You should be cautious as more than one shady employer has fired an injured worker and claimed it was for cause when the facts were pretty debatable. For instance, we represented a retail employee who taught Sunday school regularly and was about as devout as they come. Following her injury she was assigned to work as a greeter. She was fired for allegedly using the “F word” to a customer. This was almost impossible to imagine happening. The proof of this? An anonymous letter to the store manager. At the hearing when asked why the store would believe such an outrageous accusation from an anonymous source, the manager defended it and said she believed the “anonymous source” because it was her own daughter. The Manager admitted to asking the daughter to write the letter and instructed her not to sign it. Yet the manager clung to the story that the underlying offense really occurred.