As a workers’ compensation attorney, one of the first questions I’m often asked is whether an injured employee may be fired for reporting a work-related injury. My response is always the same. In Missouri, it is illegal for an employer to fire workers for getting injured on the job or reporting a possible work related injury. It is also illegal for an employee to discriminate against an injured worker in any way.
However, the injured employee will inevitably have a better idea than me as to whether the employer might retaliate against the employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Employees know their bosses and companies much better than any attorney does, know the type of people they are dealing with, and know whether their employer will treat them fairly as a person, or a dollar figure.
If you think you might get fired or retaliated against by your employer for reporting a work related injury, I recommend that you take a couple of steps to protect yourself.
1. Document all Communication.
First, record or document every communication that you have with your employer about the injury or your job status. Communications should be done by email or in person, preferably with witnesses. A report of injury should always be made in writing, either using the form provided by your employer or simply writing your own account of how and where the injury occurred and giving a copy to the employer.
In Missouri, it is legal to record a conversation as long as one person in the conversation is aware of it being recorded. If you cannot record the conversation or communicate by email, keep a written ledger with your recollection of the conversation, made as soon after the conversation as possible.
2. Don’t Be Pressed into quitting.
Second, do not be pressured into quitting your job. Make your employer fire you. If you are pressured into quitting rather than being fired, it gives your employer ammunition against your claim. If you willingly leave your job, it can affect how easily it will be to receive compensation.
3. Continue to Be a Good Employee.
Third, do not give your employer any excuse to fire you by failing to show up to work, showing up late to work, or becoming belligerent.
If you are fired by your employer, the burden will be on you to prove that your having reported a work injury and pursuing your rights under the Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law was the motivating factor in your employer’s decision to fire you. It doesn’t have to be the only factor, but it has to be what motivated your employer to terminate you. If you start acting out at work of neglecting your duties, your employer will have an argument for firing you that doesn’t include your workers’ compensation claim.
What are the nExt Steps?
If you can prove that your employer fired you for attempting to pursue your rights under the Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law, then you will be entitled to a jury trial and given the opportunity to prove your right to compensation for lost wages and emotional trauma.
It isn’t easy to prove that your employer was motivated to terminate you because you were hurt on the job, there is seldom direct evidence of the employer’s motivation. That is why it is so important to record and/or document as much as you can. The longer you worked for a company prior to the work injury, especially if you received favorable job reviews prior to the work injury, the easier it will be to prove your case. The quicker you are fired after reporting a work related injury, the more likely a jury is to infer that your employer was motivated to fire you because you tried to pursue your rights under the Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law. Often times, employers have a track record of firing employees who are hurt on the job. If you know of other employees who suffered the same fate, it will be easier to prove your case.
At The Alberhasky Law Firm, PC, we represent injured workers in all aspects of their injury case, whether it be for workers’ compensation benefits, a third party lawsuit for someone else’s negligence in causing your injury or a retaliatory discharge claim against your employer for having fired you for pursuing your rights under the Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law. If you need help or have a question, give us a call at 417-865-4444.
About the Author
When it comes to workers’ compensation cases, Randy Alberhasky has over 25 years of experience. During his legal career he has personally tried over 200 workers’ compensation hearings and jury trials in courts throughout the State of Missouri. Many people who have suffered from a workplace injury and illness are unaware of the legal action they can take to receive the financial compensation that they deserve. The Alberhasky Law Firm, P.C. is proud to help our clients receive the compensation they deserve.