This is a question we get quite frequently: Can my employer terminate my position while I am out on workers comp? The scenario would be set up something like this: a roofer has an injury and is out for several months according to the opinion expressed by his or her authorized workers’ compensation physician. After two months, his employer informs him he is terminated for economic business reasons. He or she is upset and would like to seek recourse. Unfortunately, there is no provision in the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act that obligates an employer to hold a position open for an injured employee who is out on workers comp. However, the employer/carrier in most situations will have a continuing obligation to pay lost wage benefits while the injured worker is totally or temporarily disabled. Of course, if the employee is terminated FOR exercising his or her rights under the act, he or she may have a claim for coercion under §440.205 or a private cause of action for wrongful termination. However, that is outside the scope of this article. This question deals specifically with the employer’s obligation (or lack of obligation) to hold a job open for an injured worker while he or she is out on workers comp.
Specifically, being “out on workers comp” means being either in a temporary total disability capacity (completely off work) or in a temporary partial disability capacity (having physical restrictions or commonly referred to as “light duty”, and the employer’s inability to accommodate those restrictions). An employer does not have to keep a job open for an injured worker simply because he or she is out on workers’ compensation. This question can get infinitely more complex when dealing with light duty, and whether the wage loss is attributable to the work injury.
The obvious question is: If I get terminated, will I still be entitled to wage loss benefits from the insurance company? In the vast majority of cases, the answer will be yes, the insurance company will continue to pay either temporary partial disability or temporary total disability benefits until the injured worker achieves a level of overall maximum medical improvement. However, these cases can be very fact specific and vary based on many factors. Therefore, if you have questions regarding entitlement to ongoing benefits while being out on workers comp, or have been terminated, feel free to contact our office to speak with one of our workers comp attorneys in Tampa regarding the facts and circumstances of your workers’ compensation case. We offer free consultations, and have been protecting the rights of Florida’s injured workers since 1989.