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Workers' Compensation Questions Answered: May An Employer Terminate My Employment After I Have Suffered A Work Injury?

October 7, 2011

As long as your employer has not violated the terms of a union contract, discriminated against you on the basis of your disability, or violated the Family and Medical Leave Act, it has the right to terminate your employment after you suffer a work injury. 
Unionized employees, however, normally have contract provisions which require “just cause” for terminations and arbitrators often order reinstatement. You should check your collective bargaining agreement carefully, however, because many agreements provide a limit on the amount of time that an employee may stay out of work in connection with an injury and be entitled to reinstatement of employment. For example, many contracts provide that if an employee is not able to return to employment within one year of the date of injury, he or she will be separated from employment with the employer. You may also be required to file for and receive a medical leave of absence. Check with your union. 
The Family and Medical Leave Act imposes upon most employers the duty to grant twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave time per year to employees suffering from a serious medical condition, provided the employee has worked a sufficient number of hours in the one year preceding the first day of leave time. If you qualify and are not eligible for more generous leave pursuant to a provision in a union contract, you should request leave pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act. 
The Americans with Disabilities Act broadly prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with permanent disabilities in virtually all aspects of employment. The Act requires that persons with disabilities be afforded an opportunity to obtain equal levels of performance through the making of “reasonable accommodations” to their known physical or mental impairments, provided the person can perform the essential functions of the job. The reasonable accommodation requirement does not, however, distinguish between work related injuries and non-work related impairments. 
Companies that have federal government contracts over $2,500.00 and hire sub-contractors are subject to Section 503 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which provides that such firms may not discriminate against disabled workers, must maintain affirmative action programs and must make reasonable accommodations to retain and hire workers with a wide range of handicaps, including back, lung, heart and other similar conditions. The failure to comply with these provisions may result in the cancellation of all federal contracts. 
In some instances, the discharge of a disabled worker may be a disguised attempt to dismiss an older employee. If you are between the ages of 40 and 70, you are protected by State and Federal statutes prohibiting age discrimination. Complaints must be filed within one hundred and eighty (180) days with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 57. What Social Security Disability Benefits are available? 
The Social Security Administration administers two (2) disability programs: Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income. 
Social Security Disability is an early retirement program for seriously disabled workers who have been contributing to the Social Security Fund. It is not necessary for the disability to be related to employment for you to be eligible for benefits. If you are eligible, you will receive monthly benefits after a five-month waiting period. After two (2) years of receiving such benefits, Medicare coverage is available. 
You are entitled to Social Security Disability benefits if you are suffering from a physical or mental condition that prevents performance of any substantial gainful work and the condition is expected to last or has lasted for at least twelve (12) months, or is expected to result in death. 
Supplemental Security Income is available to persons who have not made sufficient contribution to the Social Security system to qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits. The same disability test is applicable, but in addition, you must demonstrate that you have only minimal liquid assets.

Willig, Williams & Davidson Workers' Compensation Lawyers

The workers compensation lawyers at Willig, Williams & Davidson have a deep knowledge of workers’ comp law. Our lawyers in PA use our workers’ compensation expertise and a broad client base to leverage the best possible results for our clients in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and beyond. Our Workers’ Compensation Department provides advice, counseling and legal representation to sick and injured workers, to make sure that they receive 100 percent of the benefits required by law.

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