Workers’ Compensation Discrimination or Wrongful Termination?

You got hurt at work, filed a workers’ compensation claim and were later fired. Depending on the circumstances of your termination, there may be situations when your workers’ compensation claim didn’t affect your employer’s decision to let you go. So, it’s an attorney’s job to find out if your case is a matter of wrongful termination or if you were fired because of your workers’ compensation claim.

Workers’ Compensation Discrimination or Wrongful Termination

When it comes to filing a case against a former employer, there are a few things you should know.

Employers don’t need a reason to fire you

Under NC law, employers are allowed to be arbitrary when letting go of an employee, as long there isn’t a discriminatory intent behind the decision. Few activities actually qualify as discrimination, which makes it complicated to understand.

You can’t sue your employer for discrimination in North Carolina

Currently, HB2 prevents you from suing at the state level.  Additionally, a company must have a minimum of 15 employees for discriminatory allegations. Previously, discrimination cases account for the majority of wrongful termination suits. However, federal law still prohibits discrimination based on the following criteria:

  • Race or skin color
  • Sex (including sexual harassment)
  • Age (protection only for workers over the age of 40)
  • Disability
  • Genetic information
  • Pregnancy
  • Religion
  • Ethnicity or national origin

Wrongful termination only applies to employment contracts

In order for an employee to have a wrongful termination suit, you have to have an employment contract that contains at least one of the following:

  • A contract that outlines specific circumstances under which you cannot be fired
  • The contract requires your employer to follow a specific procedure before terminating you
  • A mandate that you must be give warning before being fired

You can’t be fired for a worker’s compensation claim

Being fired for a workers’ compensation claim is separate than wrongful termination or discrimination. North Carolina has a Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA) that prevents employers from retaliating and firing an employee because of a workers’ compensation claim. Many states don’t offer this protection, and there are no federal laws protecting employees from this type of retaliation.

Filing a retaliation claim

An employee has 180 days to file a REDA complaint. The employee’s burden of proof in a REDA lawsuit can be shown through the following:

  • Employee filed a workers’ compensation claim, which is a “protected activity”
  • There was an adverse action against the employee by the employer
  • There is a “casual connection” between the filing of the workers’ compensation claim and the employer’s retaliation

If you think you were fired for your workers’ compensation claim, be sure to set up a consultation with us. Our experience with both employment law and workers’ compensation claims can help you move forward with your case.