Per North Carolina law, employees can’t technically be fired for filing a claim for workers’ compensation. That said, since North Carolina is an at-will state, employers can find other reasons to fire an employee instead of filing for workers’ comp.
To clarify, there are 2 types of employees: at-will employees and contracted employees.
At-will employees don’t have a defined employment contract; thus, they can be terminated for any number of reasons. These reasons can range from inadequate work performance to company financial difficulties.
By comparison, contracted employees usually have more rights as they sign a contract when they gain employment. This contract usually lays out when and how the employee can be terminated.
Even though the state is overall an at-will state, there are still contracted employees.
One reason employers may give for firing an employee is if the employee can’t perform the duties laid out by their job. After a worker is injured, employers are required to make reasonable effort to accommodate their injured employee so that they can keep their job. Likewise, an employer can also offer a new position to the employee that may accommodate their abilities with similar wages and benefits.
If neither of these accommodations can be met, an employer is within its legal rights to let the employee go on the basis that they can no longer work at their current position assuming that any FMLA period that the employee may be entitled to has been exhausted.
However, there are other protections in place for workers filing for workers’ compensation.
The North Carolina’s Retaliatory Discharge Act (REDA) keeps employers from retaliating against their employees if they complain about workplace safety conditions. That said, employers could still prove that an employee was fired based on behavior or job performance.
Moreover, workers’ comp benefits can be revoked from an injured employee if it’s discovered that the employee has committed gross misconduct (i.e. weren’t correctly performing the duties laid out in their job description).
Under this circumstance, a fired employee should reach out to a qualified workers’ compensation attorney to get help deciding whether the employer’s misconduct claim will hold up in court. If the employee feels that they’ve been wrongfully fired after filing for workers’ compensation, they need to file a claim with the North Carolina Department of Labor within 180 days. The NCDoL will investigate and return their findings.
If you or a loved one are injured in the workplace, then the workers’ compensation benefits you may receive in North Carolina fall into these 4 categories…
Employees who are fired after filing for workers’ compensation in North Carolina are still entitled to receive their workers’ comp benefits as long as they are still under their same doctor’s restrictions from the time they were injured and they are still unable to work or find a new job. Those who are no longer under doctor’s restrictions and those who were fired for misconduct are in jeopardy of losing their benefits.
If you’ve been injured at work and then were fired, and you feel this was illegal, it would benefit you to take action immediately. You need to contact an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney right away.
The Wilder Pantazis Law Group is a team of North Carolina attorneys specializing in catastrophic personal injuries including car and truck accidents, workers’ compensation cases, and other severe personal injuries. Rob Wilder has litigated more than 200 jury trials and is skilled at presenting complex information in a digestible way. He has represented clients in catastrophic personal injury cases, along with employment, healthcare, antitrust, banking, pharmaceuticals, heavy industrials and building materials, and other corporate law. Rob has served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy JAG Corps. He has been listed in the Best Lawyers in America in Healthcare for the past 10 years, SuperLawyers, and Legal Elite.