Can I Be Fired While on Workers’ Comp in South Carolina?

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Suffering a job-related accident can cause immense worry as to how medical expenses and household bills will be paid. Fortunately, the workers’ compensation system exists to help meet these needs.

But to add insult to injury, some hurt workers find themselves fired while they are either on or seeking workers’ compensation. Do you know your rights after being injured on the job? The Lancaster workers’ compensation attorneys at Elrod Pope Accident & Injury Attorneys in Lancaster, SC, can help.

Will I Lose My Job if I File for Workers’ Compensation in SC?

There’s an understandable fear among many workers that if they file for workers’ compensation after being hurt at work, their employer will fire them. However, this practice — known as retaliatory discharge — is illegal.

It is true that employers can generally fire employees for nearly any reason they want to because South Carolina is an employment-at-will state. But there are exceptions, including for workers’ comp. An employee cannot legally be terminated simply for filing a good faith workers’ compensation claim.

If the employee loses his or her job after filing for workers’ comp, the employee must prove that the termination is retaliatory. The employer can defend its actions if it can show that the employee was fired for:

  • Being habitually late to or absent from work
  • Acting in a disorderly manner at work
  • Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol at work
  • Stealing money or property from the employer
  • Violating a written company policy for which job termination is the remedy

In other words, the termination will be allowed only if the employer successfully proves its actions were not based on the filing of the workers’ comp claim.

Can I Be Fired While Out on Workers’ Compensation?

Still, you may be worried that the company can fire you while on workers’ comp. But, employers are required to keep an injured worker employed during the life of his or her workers’ compensation claim so the worker can recover and obtain necessary medical attention.

The law’s protection doesn’t end there. As soon as a doctor certifies that the injured employee has recovered enough to return to work, the employer must do everything possible to return the worker to his or her previous position. That includes making reasonable adjustments to the employee’s schedule, working conditions, and job duties.

What If I Get Fired While Filing for Workers’ Compensation?

What if you have been injured at work but have not yet filed a workers’ compensation claim? If an employee was hurt and then fired for any reason while either making a workers’ comp claim or before having the chance to file one, the employee still has the right to seek workers’ compensation.

The worker will need to notify the employer of the claim within seven days of being discharged. Also, the employee must prove that the injury was work-related, meaning that it resulted from performance of job duties or workplace conditions.

Will Your Benefits Continue Even If Your Boss Fires You?

There are cases in which an employer cannot reasonably accommodate the employee and, therefore, fires him or her for being physically unable to perform the job. In such a situation, the employer must provide the worker with weekly checks until a doctor releases the employee from medical care. These are known as temporary total disability (TTD) payments, and they equal two-thirds of the employee’s pre-tax earnings.

As an example, if an employee grossed $750 per week before being injured, the employee would receive a $500 weekly check from the time he or she was terminated until a doctor determines the employee has reached maximum medical improvement. This term means that an injured worker has reached a point at which their medical condition is not expected to further improve despite any additional treatment.

What Benefits Can I Seek in a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

In addition to payment for medical care, an injured worker can seek these workers’ comp benefits:

  • Coverage for income that is lost while being out of work
  • A portion of the employee’s weekly wages, if the employee qualifies
  • Wage benefits if the employee goes back to work but can only perform light job-related duties
  • In some cases, vocational rehabilitation to help the worker acquire and maintain competitive employment

Reach Out to an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today

If you’ve been injured at work and were then let go, it may be because of your active or pending workers’ compensation claim. Few, if any, employers will actually admit to firing workers because they filed a claim, so it’s vital that you hire an experienced attorney to begin gathering the evidence necessary to prove it. Contact our workers’ comp team at Elrod Pope Accident & Injury Attorneys in Lancaster, SC, to get started.

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