When you are injured on the job, the last thing you should have to worry about is losing your position because of it. However, unethical employers demote injured workers all too often. When they get away with it, it’s because the injured worker didn’t know how to fight back against this injustice.
If you are injured at work, your employer is required to provide you with workers’ compensation coverage under federal law. In addition, you may not be fired or demoted solely because you were injured at work. Employers, however, sometimes do demote employees who have filed workers’ compensation claims. If that has happened to you, these are the steps you need to take to protect your rights.
1. Gather Evidence
The first step if you believe you have been demoted simply because you filed a workers’ compensation claim is to gather evidence. You may need to collect documents like previous evaluations, letters of commendation, or information about bonuses issued to you because of your performance.
You will also need to be able to show that you were entitled to receive benefits as you were injured at work, that you filed a workers’ compensation claim for that injury, that you were demoted, and that your employer demoted you because of the workers’ compensation claim. Therefore, proof that you were doing your job satisfactorily before you filed the claim could be used as proof your demotion was connected to your injury.
2. File a Complaint of Retaliation
Once you have your documentation, you will want to file a claim of retaliation. This may be filed at your county or state level depending on the workers’ compensation laws in your state. It is possible you can find the complaint form online, although you may have to go into your county or state labor office. The best place to start is to search for the website for your state labor department and look for information about workers’ compensation.
3. Continue Performing Your Job Duties
Although it may be difficult, you should continue performing the job duties you have been assigned. Quitting or refusing to do the work could result in the labor department siding against you in your retaliation claim. Just as they cannot fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim, your employer may not be able to fire you for filing a retaliation claim. However, if you refuse to do the duties you have been assigned, they may have grounds to terminate your employment legally.
4. Continue Medical Treatment
While waiting for a decision on your retaliation claim, continue any medical treatment ordered as part of your workers’ compensation claim. If you stop following your doctor’s orders, you may lose your workers’ compensation benefits. Even more dangerous, your condition could worsen to the point you cannot work at all, which may also be grounds for termination since you did not follow medical advice.
5. Contact an Attorney
The best thing you can do if you are demoted due to a workers’ compensation claim is to contact a labor and employment lawyer. You want to choose an attorney who understands labor and employment law as they will have significant knowledge of how the workers’ compensation process operates in your state as well as the laws that protect you when you suffer a workplace injury.
Hiring a lawyer does not mean you plan to sue your employer. In fact, in most states, you are not permitted to file a lawsuit for a workplace injury. A labor and employment attorney will simply look out for your rights and help you get the compensation you deserve under the law. If court action is necessary, having an attorney who is already familiar with your case will make the process go much smoother.