Employees in the state of Tennessee are owed two-thirds of their lost wages and payment of their medical expenses if they have suffered a work-related accident or occupational illness. This is true regardless of who is at fault for the injury or illness. Generally, employers are required to carry workers’ compensation benefits to cover these eventualities. When employees assert their right to workers’ comp benefits, employers are not permitted to retaliate against these workers, including in the form of wrongful termination.
Unfortunately, employers and their insurance companies too often attempt to avoid their obligation to pay by various means, including finding fault with or firing these employees.
At-will employment and wrongful termination
Most employment relationships in the state of Tennessee are at-will. Under this construct, employers may fire an employee without cause at any time. An important exception to this rule forbids the employer from terminating the employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Proving retaliatory discharge by your employer
As an employee terminated subsequent to submitting a workers’ compensation claim, you may have a legitimate case against your employer for wrongful termination if your employer acted against you in some way, including by terminating or threatening to terminate your employment for filing a claim. In many cases, however, it can be difficult to prove this assertion. After all, few employers would come right out and say “I will fire you if you file a claim.”
Instead, employers may attempt to prevent a worker from full obtaining benefits by asserting that the worker’s disability is only temporary, or claiming the worker is ready to return to work fully or ready to do so with restrictions. An employer who acts in this manner toward an injured employee, either to extract the employee’s services or to set up the employee for eventual termination, can be held accountable. Other tactics may include:
- Failing to offer any available light duty work options
- Offering an insufficient amount of leave time
- Offering or assigning humiliating work
- Compelling the worker to perform duties the employer knows the worker is unable to perform
- Claiming the worker was performing poorly before he or she was injured
Even if you are discharged prior to filing a workers’ compensation claim, you may still have the opportunity to issue a claim for wrongful termination. If your employer was aware of your work-related injury and acted quickly against you before you had a chance to file a claim, you may have a right to recover compensation.
If you are the victim of retaliatory discharge after taking steps to file a workers’ compensation claim in Tennessee or North Georgia, an experienced and qualified attorney can evaluate your potential remedies. At Wagner & Wagner, our team of Chattanooga workers’ compensation attorneys advocates strongly on behalf of work injury victims. We will pursue every legal effort to help you obtain the wage loss benefits and medical compensation you are owed under the law. We serve Chattanooga, Cleveland, TN, and North Georgia. To set up a free consultation, give us a call today at 423.799.3532 or use our contact form to send us a message.