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Although almost all Ohio employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to protect their employees after on-the-job injuries, that doesn’t mean they like using it.
When employees leave on workers’ comp, it means two things. First, the employer is down one worker until the recipient heals enough to return to work. And second, it can mean an increase in the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance premiums.
Because of these issues, it’s common for some employers to subtly (or directly) discourage workers from filing workers’ compensation claims. If you work for an employer like this, you may be worried about what will happen to you and your job if you apply for or begin receiving benefits.
Here’s what you need to know about whether you can be fired for applying for or receiving workers’ compensation benefits in Ohio.
It’s common for workers to be told by their coworkers, supervisors, or managers that they’re not only ineligible for benefits after work-related injuries, but that they also may be fired for applying for them. Fortunately, Ohio law prevents this from happening.
Whether you apply for benefits on your own or with the help of a lawyer, your employer can’t fire you for making this decision. In fact, your employer is legally required to cooperate during the application process, which includes completing certain forms and corresponding with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) when necessary.
Getting approved for workers’ compensation benefits is always a big relief for injured workers in Ohio. However, many workers still worry about their job security while they’re receiving benefits and waiting to heal enough from their injuries to return to work.
As with workers who are applying for benefits, workers who are currently receiving workers’ compensation benefits are also protected from termination. No matter how long your injury lasts or the extent of your benefits, your employer is legally forbidden from firing you for receiving workers’ compensation checks.
As an at-will employment state, non-union and non-contract employees in Ohio are legally allowed to leave their jobs at any time for any reason or for no reason at all. However, this goes both ways, and it means employers can also terminate non-union and non-contract employees at any time for any reason or for no reason at all—with a few exceptions. One of these exceptions is in cases of “retaliation,” e.g., when an employer tries to punish an employee for filing an injury claim.
As noted above, applying for and receiving workers’ compensation benefits are both exceptions to Ohio’s at-will employment law, and employees doing so are protected from termination. However, employers can attempt to circumvent this by firing employees who are applying for or receiving workers’ compensation by claiming it’s for other reasons, such as poor work performance, lack of communication skills, or inability to work well with others—regardless of whether these reasons are true or not.
If your employer fires you for a non-workers’ compensation-related reason while you’re receiving benefits, you are still eligible to receive those benefits until your injury heals and you are cleared to return to work by a BWC-affiliated doctor.
If you suspect that you were fired for applying for or receiving workers’ compensation benefits (even if your employer says it was for another reason), you may be able to sue your employer for retaliation.
Thankfully, most employers in Ohio are understanding when employees get hurt on the job and need to apply for and receive workers’ compensation benefits while they recover from their injuries. For many employers, temporary lost labor and the possibility of a slight increase in workers’ compensation insurance premiums aren’t worth losing a valued employee—or risking a lawsuit for retaliation.
Simply put, if you were hurt at work, you shouldn’t let fear of termination or retaliation cause you to continue going to work while injured—or miss work without receiving any benefits for your medical bills and lost wages. Instead, you should take advantage of Ohio’s robust workers’ compensation system and apply for the benefits you deserve.
There are two important reasons for contacting an Ohio workers’ compensation lawyer after an on-the-job injury. First, having a lawyer on your side means less stress during the application process and a greater chance of your claim getting approved. Second, an experienced lawyer can also protect you from an employer who violates your rights while you’re applying for or receiving benefits.
At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, our legal team works hard to help injured workers get and keep the benefits they’re owed. We also protect their rights as employees.
Let us protect you during this uncertain time. Contact us anytime for a free case review.
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