When a person is injured on the job in Florida and out of work for a considerable period, an employer could fire the employee because they are not required to hold the position open for the injured employee. However, they cannot fire an employee just because they filed a workers’ compensation claim.
Florida is an “at-will” employment state (also referred to as a “right to work” state). This means an employer has the right to terminate an employee at any time and for any reason without advance notice. Three major exceptions to at-will employment firings are when employers fire employees for discriminatory reasons, when contracts are in place, or, most importantly to workers’ compensation cases, retaliatory purposes.
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What a Lawyer Can Do for You When You Have a Workers’ Compensation Claim
While employers are prohibited from firing employees for filing workers’ compensation claims, this still happens throughout Florida. For a person to recover compensation in these cases, they will need to prove three things:
- A workers’ compensation claim was filed before a termination took place.
- The employer retaliated against (fired) the employee for filing a claim.
- The employer knew about the workers’ compensation claim and terminated the employee because of the claim.
Whereas the first two elements here can be somewhat easy to prove, the third factor is undoubtedly the most difficult. It can be extremely challenging to pinpoint a workers’ compensation claim as being the exact cause, especially when an employer has any number of other legitimate reasons they may point to as being a cause for the firing.
These kinds of cases can be especially complex, so it becomes critical for a person to make sure they have a lawyer who handles workers’ compensation cases. Florida Statutes § 440.205 stipulates, “No employer shall discharge, threaten to discharge, intimidate, or coerce any employee by reason of such employee’s valid claim for compensation or attempt to claim compensation under the Workers’ Compensation Law.”
Workers’ Compensation Laws in Florida
Workers’ compensation claims in Florida are governed by Chapter 440 of the Florida Statutes. While employers are prohibited from firing employees for retaliatory reasons, they are allowed to dismiss employees for other seemingly legitimate reasons, which may include:
- Poor work performance
- Financial problems with the company
- Restructuring within the company
The good news for employees who are fired while receiving workers’ compensation is that they can usually continue to receive benefits even after being dismissed. Florida’s workers’ compensation program requires payments to continue until a person has either recovered from their injuries or reached a state of maximum medical improvement (also referred to as MMI). However, such provisions will not apply if an employee is fired for misconduct.
We Offer a Free Consultation in Workers’ Compensation Cases
If you choose to seek legal counsel, keep in mind that you have nothing to lose in speaking with a lawyer. You can find an attorney who offers the first consultation for free, and personal injury attorneys who work on contingency will not charge you anything for your case unless they can recover an award.
Wrongful Termination Claims in Florida
Employers in Florida cannot fire employees when there are employment contracts in place. It is important for people to understand that while some other states recognize oral or “implied” contracts, Florida is not one of them.
In general, wrongful termination claims will often be based on one of the following reasons:
- Breach of contract: In Florida, only written contracts are recognized as valid, again meaning that oral or implied contracts will not be considered. Employers can be liable for firing employees who have valid employment contracts.
- Discrimination: An employer is not permitted to fire an employee based on race, color, country of origin, sex, religious affiliation, age, or marital status. Firing an employee for having HIV, AIDS, or a sickle-cell trait is also considered discriminatory.
- Public policy: Most states in the country have laws prohibiting employers from firing “public policy” exceptions, which mean reasons the public would consider unjust. An example would be an employee who was fired for not doing something illegal on behalf of the employer. Unfortunately, Florida is one of only four states that does recognize this provision.
- Retaliation: Undoubtedly, the most common reason involved in a workers’ compensation case concerns retaliation. This action involves an employer specifically firing an employee because they filed a workers’ compensation claim or engaged in any other lawful activity, such as reporting an unsafe work area, complaining about not receiving overtime pay, or calling attention to unsafe workplace practices.
Common Kinds of Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation intends to cover numerous benefits for an employee while they are recovering from their injuries. Possible awards in these cases could include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Funeral costs
When a person cannot work because of an injury, they can receive lost wages but will not be paid for the first seven days of their disability. The first seven days are only paid if the disability extends to 21 days.
The amount paid depends on whether a disability is total, partial, temporary, or permanent.
- Temporary total disability (TTD): TTD involves an injury that prevents a person from doing any type of work, but recovery is expected. TTD benefits are equal to 66 ⅔ percent of an average weekly wage before an injury, but some types of injuries could lead to as much as 80 percent of a wage for up to six months after an accident. TTD benefits end when a person reaches MMI.
- Temporary partial disability (TPD): TPD benefits are for individuals who can return to work with restrictions. A person must not be earning more than 80 percent of their income before their injury. The benefits are 80 percent of the difference between 80 percent of pre-injury average weekly wages and the amount currently being earned.
- Permanent total disability (PTD): A person qualifies for PTD benefits if their injury is serious enough that they permanently are unable to work. A person can start receiving PTD benefits only when they have reached MMI. The benefit will continue up to the age of 75 or until death.
- Permanent partial disability (PPD): PPD benefits are for individuals who are permanently disabled but can still do some kind of work. These benefits depend on a person’s impairment rating.
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Find Your Florida Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
If you have been fired after filing a workers’ compensation claim in Florida, the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine may be able to help you. Our firm makes it a mission to help people get the compensation they deserve for their injuries.
If you’re ready to discuss your next steps, you can call 1-800-747-3733 for a free consultation with our team. We will review your legal options and next steps.