Do I Lose My Workers’ Compensation Benefits if I Am Laid Off?March 21, 2022
A work injury can be stressful for so many reasons. Beyond the physical discomfort and other symptoms, employees who get hurt at work face medical bills and lost income while they cannot work. Workers’ Compensation insurance helps alleviate some of the financial burden facing injured workers in Maryland and across the United States.
But what happens if you are laid off or fired while collecting Workers’ Compensation benefits? Fortunately, your benefits will not be affected if your employer terminates you after a work injury. This discussion explores Maryland Workers’ Compensation guidelines and what to do if you are fired while on disability.
Compensable Injuries under Maryland Workers’ Compensation
Protection for injured workers has been around in some form in the United States since the 1900s. In Maryland, injuries are covered under Workers’ Compensation laws if they are caused by an accidental personal injury arising out of and in the course of employment.
The language is important because not all work injuries and illnesses are compensable under Workers’ Compensation laws. You must be at your place of employment and performing job duties or something related to them when your accident occurred.
Accidents and injuries that happen while an employee is acting inappropriately or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, for example, are unlikely to be covered by Workers’ Compensation.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
The amount and duration of Workers’ Compensation benefits depend on many factors, including the extent of your injuries and the duration of your recovery. Here is a general overview of the different types of benefits available under the law:
- Temporary total disability benefits: Available during the healing period for an employee who is fully disabled for work purposes.
- Temporary partial disability benefits: For an injured employee who is not totally disabled and can perform limited or part-time duties at a reduced wage.
- Permanent total disability benefits: For an employee who is totally and permanently disabled from a work injury or occupational illness.
- Permanent partial disability benefits: Available when an employee has some permanent impairment but is not totally and permanently disabled.
- Medical/hospitalization benefits: Includes compensation for medication, nursing and hospital services, medical aids, and prosthetic appliances.
- Wage reimbursement benefits: Compensation for time spent receiving medical care and attending and traveling to Workers’ Compensation meetings and hearings.
- Vocational rehabilitation benefits: Training and services to help disabled employees acquire new skills and obtain new employment.
Is It Legal to Fire Me during My Recovery from a Work Injury?
It is a common misconception that someone who is temporarily unable to work because of a work injury or illness cannot be fired. That is largely untrue. Injured workers out on temporarily disability do not receive special treatment and can be laid off in most cases for any legal reason.
If you sustained a work injury that leaves you unable to work for an extended period, your employer is not required to hold your job for you. You can be terminated and replaced if they cannot wait for you to recover to the point at which you can perform your job duties. You can also be laid off if you can work but cannot perform your former job or can only work with restrictions.
Discipline issues, poor performance, economic problems, and downsizing are valid and permissible grounds to terminate an injured employee who is receiving Workers’ Compensation. Maryland is an at-will employment state, meaning employees work at the will of their employers. Therefore, unless there is a contract or agreement stating otherwise, you can really be fired without any reason at all.
Can I Be Fired for Reporting a Work Injury or Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
There is an important distinction when it comes to termination after a job-related injury. Your employer cannot let you go because you got hurt at work, reported a work injury, or filed a Workers’ Compensation claim.
Similarly, it is unlawful to demote, harass, or harm an employee because they spoke out about unsafe work conditions or filed for Workers’ Compensation benefits. Someone who has been the victim of unlawful retaliation can sue their employer for wrongful termination.
What Should I Do if I Was Wrongfully Terminated for Collecting Workers’ Compensation?
If you were fired for filing a Workers’ Compensation claim, you can sue your employer for wrongful termination. Retaliation is unlawful under state and federal law. Yet with that said, unlawful termination can be challenging to prove.
Maryland law makes it unlawful to fire an employee “solely” for filing a claim. That single word is critical because it opens the door for your employer to terminate you, as long as your claim is not the only reason for being fired. Again, Maryland is an at-will state. Your employer can let you go you without cause, as long as your claim is not the sole basis for termination.
You need evidence to support allegations of wrongful termination and retaliation. For example, if your supervisor commented to colleague about plans to fire you for filing a claim, you probably have grounds for a legal claim against your employer.
Possible Damages for Wrongful Termination
If your claim is successful and you prove unlawful termination, you may be entitled to compensation for:
- Attorneys’ fees
- Back pay
- Job reinstatement
- Workers’ Compensation, if termination impacted your claim
After wrongful termination, the first step should be to schedule a meeting with a seasoned Workers’ Compensation lawyer to discuss your case and learn your rights and options under the law.
Will I Still Receive My Benefits if I Am Laid Off While on Disability?
Although it is unfortunate to be laid off after a work injury, the good news is you will not lose your Workers’ Compensation benefits.
According to the law, you retain every right to this compensation whether you are currently employed or not. Nothing changes the fact that you got hurt on the job and are entitled to medical costs, lost wages, and other benefits.
How Long Will I Receive Workers’ Compensation after Being Laid Off?
That depends. Typically, with Workers’ Compensation claims, your health care provider determines if and when it is safe for you to resume working. The provider sets guidelines for safe job duties based on the information you provide about your position and the physical demands involved.
Once your doctor clears you to go back to work, you submit the release documentation to your employer. In some cases, an injured employee is considered partially recovered and is cleared to return to work with restrictions.
Your employer has the option to accept you back to work or not. If they do not give your job back, you will continue receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits until you are fully recovered.
If your employer notifies you that they are holding your job for you, but you decide not to go back to work, you forfeit your Workers’ Compensation benefits. After all, Workers’ Compensation insurance exists to provide financial support for ill and injured workers while they are unable to work. If they can work but choose not to, collecting compensation would be taking advantage of the system.
If you are out on Workers’ Compensation and have recently been downsized, consider meeting with an employment law attorney who has experience handling work injury cases. They will provide helpful legal guidance and information based on your individual situation.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Defend the Rights of Workers in Maryland
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, or just have questions about the work injury claim process, the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton are available to help. We help employees recover compensation for medical bills and lost income until they have recovered and can return to work. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.