For many people who are injured at work, their biggest concern is holding on to their job. Many employers discourage injured employees from filing claims for workers compensation benefits, sometimes by actually telling a hurt employee not to file a claim and to just use their own health insurance. Other times, employers let it generally be known throughout the workplace that a worker who files a claim can make themselves a target for termination down the line. The good news is that North Carolina has laws specifically designed to protect injured workers who file workers’ compensation claims from retaliation by their employers. Can you be fired for filing a claim? The short answer is “no.”
North Carolina is a “right to work” state, which basically means that an employer can generally fire an employee for any reason, or for no reason at all. That is the general rule, but there are other laws in place that protect employees from being terminated for specific reasons, such as reasons related to a person’s race, religion, sex, age, and others. One of those protective laws is the North Carolina Retaliatory Discharge Act (“REDA”), which makes it illegal for an employer to fire an employee because the employee filed a workers’ compensation claim.
It is important to note that, under the general rule, an employer can fire an employee if the employee cannot perform their job anymore, even if it is because of a workplace injury. However, if you are able to work and you feel as if you were fired in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim, you may have a claim under REDA. These claims start with a complaint to the North Carolina Department of Labor, and they must be filed within 180 days of the termination or adverse employment action. The Dept. of Labor will investigate the claim, and either attempt to resolve the issue or give the employee a “right to sue letter” that permits the employee to take their case to court. If a REDA claim is successful, the employee can be awarded damages including his or her lost wages and other economic losses. Significantly, REDA allows for damage awards to be tripled, and also allows for payment of the employee’s attorneys’ fees.
Not every situation where an employee is fired after filing a workers’ compensation claim gives rise to a claim under REDA, but if you feel as if you have been fired in retaliation after being hurt at work, you should contact an experienced attorney to learn about your rights and options. If you hire our firm, you can be sure that you have a dedicated team of professionals fighting for your rights so you can focus on getting well and getting back to work. You won’t have to worry about paying any legal fees until your case is over, and you won’t pay any fees at all unless your claim is successful. Contact Miller Law Group‘s Raleigh office at 919-348-4361 to schedule your consultation with one of our attorneys at no cost.