Yes, it’s possible that you can be terminated—but not in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Worker’s comp is no-fault insurance for any accidental injury or occupational illness you might suffer while performing your job duties. It covers your medical expenses and provides temporary monetary benefits lost due to being taken out of work for recovery. Your employer may not penalize you for filing a legitimate workers’ comp claim.
Because South Carolinians want it’s companies to be accountable for workers’ safety, maintain safe workplaces, and minimize work-related injuries, law prohibits the following actions against employees who file for workers’ compensation benefits:
- Retaliatory termination
- Harassment in the workplace
If you file a claim and are granted benefits, you should be treated equally with other employees until you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) and have recovered to the extent your doctors think you will. At that point, you may have the opportunity to return to your job or to a light-duty position that accommodates any medical restrictions you have as a result of your work-related injury or illness.
Despite protections for recipients of workers’ comp benefits, South Carolina is still an at-will employment state. This means your employer may fire you at any time for any reason or for no reason as long as your termination is not retaliatory. Your company might legally discharge you while you’re out due to your injury or illness if it can show that:
- You’ve violated a company policy.
- You’ve been under the influence of drugs or alcohol in the workplace.
- You’ve behaved in a disorderly or disruptive manner on the job.
- You’ve regularly missed or been late for work.
There are also a few other circumstances under which your employer may be able to legally fire you while you’re off work after your injury:
- The job duties of your position are essential to the company’s business. In this case, the employer might have to replace you. If there’s no other suitable job for you when you’re ready to return to work, you could be terminated.
- Even after reaching MMI, you’re not able to do your previous job, and there’s no suitable light-duty position available.
- The expense of modifying your workspace to accommodate your medical restrictions would be unreasonably high for the company.
- Even with accommodations, your job performance no longer meets the standards of the employer.
Obtaining a Settlement From A Work Related Injury
If the evidence shows that your employer has fired you unfairly, you might not want to return to your former company. In that case, your attorney can help you close your workers’ comp claim and receive a lump-sum payment instead of weekly benefit checks from your employer’s insurance company. The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission, allows three different paths to settlement:
- A clincher agreement ending all benefits
- An indemnity-only clincher allowing continued medical treatment
- A Form 16A agreement under which you continue to receive doctor-recommended treatment and have one year to file a change-of-condition claim for further benefits
Have You Been Injured On The Job In South Carolina?
If you've been hurt at your job you need to speak with an experienced workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Charleston, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.2359 to schedule your free consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach or North Charleston office locations.