Can I Get Fired While Receiving Indiana Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

Each year, thousands of Hoosiers are left unable to work because of injuries related to workplace accidents. While many of these individuals will qualify for Indiana workers’ compensation benefits, one of the most common questions among potential claimants is whether or not receiving work comp benefits can affect job security.

The answer is yes, but only under certain circumstances. The Indiana state government says the state has an “at-will” employment policy. This means employers can hire or fire workers as they see fit, but they cannot discriminate against employees based on disabilities, even if the disability is one the worker did not have when they were hired, such as after a workplace accident.

Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim Isn’t a Fireable Offense

Furthermore, Indiana employers cannot fire an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. However, they may be able to terminate employees who cannot work for a period of time that violates their posted or published attendance or leave policies.

For example, if a company makes it clear that employees are allowed only 10 missed shifts in a year, or they are only allowed to take 14 days off total in a year for any reason, and their injury causes them to miss more time than that, then they may be legally terminated by their employers.

How You Can Protect Yourself While on Workers’ Comp

Although almost all Indiana business owners are required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance to protect their employees, not all of them are happy when employees file claims. Businesses may face greater expenses when workers are out on workers’ comp leave, and they may wish to replace injured employees with new workers to avoid disruptions in productivity.

You can protect yourself, your paycheck, and your career by taking these steps when you’re receiving workers’ compensation and unable to work:

  • Apply for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)—If your injury qualifies you for workers’ compensation, there’s a good chance it also qualifies you for FMLA. Unlike workers’ compensation, FMLA is unpaid, but it does protect your job. While workers’ comp grants you a percentage of your pay while you recover, FMLA guarantees you’ll keep your job for at least 12 weeks.
  • Consult your union—If you’re a member of a union, you may have additional rights and protections against termination, especially if you’ve been injured on the job. Union workers typically can’t be fired as easily as non-union workers, even in “at-will” employment states like Indiana.
  • Avoid activities that could worsen your injury or disability—Because Indiana is an “at-will” employment state, the government sides with businesses that hire and fire based on productivity. That means it’s important to get back to work as soon as you safely can, and that typically requires following your doctor’s orders and avoiding aggravating your injury.

Do Fired Workers Lose Their Workers’ Comp Benefits?

Unfortunately, employers aren’t always patient, empathetic, or understanding when workers are out for weeks or months on workers’ comp. They may want to hire a replacement immediately, and that means firing injured employees. If this happens to you, you may be worried about what will happen to your workers’ compensation benefits.

Thankfully, getting fired while receiving benefits doesn’t mean you lose them. Because your injury happened at work, you’re still eligible to receive all workers’ comp benefits even if you’re terminated from your job the day you get your first workers’ compensation check.

However, you can lose your workers’ compensation benefits if the doctor assigned to your case by the workers’ compensation board rules you are recovered enough to go back to work—even if you no longer have a job to go back to. In addition, you can lose your benefits if you’re still employed but choose not to return to work after receiving a clean bill of health from your doctor.

Our Tips for All Workers’ Compensation Claimants in Indiana

The Indiana workers’ compensation lawyers with Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin suggest taking these two actions when filing a workers’ compensation claim:

  • Communicate clearly with your employer– Let management know about your accident and the conclusions drawn by your doctor, including how long you may be unable to work, immediately.
  • Get legal assistance– An attorney from Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin can help clarify legal questions that arise during the workers’ compensation process and ensure your rights to employment are protected while you file your claim.

Workers’ compensation benefits can be complex, especially when a claimant gets let go after their accident. Although Indiana is an “at-will” state, not all terminations are legal, especially if it can be proven that they were due to a disability—especially one caused by an on-the-job injury.

Get in touch with our legal team today if you need help applying for workers’ compensation benefits, appealing the state workers’ compensation board’s decision, or if you believe your employer has wrongfully terminated you while you were receiving benefits. At Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin, we support Indiana’s workers, and we want to ensure your voice is heard and your rights are protected.

This post was originally published in June 2014. It has been updated to ensure its accuracy and relevancy.

Reach out to a Terre Haute Personal Injury Attorney Today

The financial burden that often comes with a serious injury can be too much for many people to bear. Unexpected medical debt, damaged personal property, and the sudden loss of income can impact the budgets of most families. The good news is that a successful injury claim could help reduce that financial strain after a serious accident. Get in touch with a Terre Haute personal injury lawyer with Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin to learn more.

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