In Colorado, a workers’ compensation claim is a way to recover financial compensation for your medical bills and lost wages as an injured worker without having to prove fault. If you report your injury to your employer and seek workers’ comp benefits, you may be afraid that this will lead to your boss firing you. In Colorado, it is against the law for an employer to terminate an employee just for filing a workers’ compensation claim. This does not mean, however, that you cannot get fired while on workers’ comp.
Different states use different employment laws to determine when an employer lawfully can and cannot terminate an employee. Colorado has an at-will employment law, which gives employers the right to terminate employees for any reason or no reason at all, and without any prior notice. In addition, an employee in Colorado does not need to give a reason or two weeks’ notice to quit a job.
Due to Colorado’s at-will employment law, it is permissible for an employer to fire an employee while he or she is collecting workers’ compensation insurance benefits. This is not expressly against the rules. Your employer can terminate you for poor work performance, financial problems, restructuring or any other lawful reason while you are on workers’ comp or after you’ve filed a claim. Your employer cannot fire you for an unlawful reason, however, such as a disability.
If a work accident gives you a long-term or permanent disability, your employer has a legal obligation to provide reasonable accommodations. Refusing to accommodate your disability and firing you because of it is against the law and could give you the right to file a wrongful termination lawsuit. Note, however, that your employer is not obligated to hold your job for you while you are in recovery. If your injury or disability takes you out of work for any length of time, this can be enough of a reason to be let go.
If you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits for a work injury, getting fired will not impact or interrupt your payments. The workers’ compensation program is required to continue paying your benefits even if your job is terminated, until you have fully recovered or reached your point of maximum medical improvement. This is the point where your doctor believes that no further recovery will occur. There is an exception to this rule, however, if you lost your job due to misconduct.
If you do not notice that you have an injury or illness until after you have already been fired from a job – such as latent injuries connected to the repetitive motion of a previous position – you can still file a workers’ compensation claim with your old employer. You must do so, however, within Colorado’s statute of limitations (deadline) of two years. If your claim is accepted, you will be paid at the rate set by your previous employer.
Being terminated for the inability to complete the necessary functions of your job, or for any other lawful reason, is acceptable while you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits in Colorado. It is against the law, however, for your employer to fire you as a form of retaliation for reporting your injury or filing a workers’ comp claim.
Retaliation means that your employer is punishing you for filing a workers’ comp claim by taking adverse employment action against you. Examples of retaliation include job termination, demotion, a pay cut, a worse schedule, harassment and discrimination. If you believe that you were fired because you filed a workers’ comp claim, contact an employment lawyer for assistance.
For more information about the workers’ compensation system in Colorado, request a free consultation with a Denver workers’ comp attorney at The Fang Law Firm.