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The Monthly HMMM… Can I Be Fired While Out on Ohio Workers’ Compensation?

Injured man filing for injury claims.

Sometimes injured workers fear that by filing a workers’ compensation claim, their employer will retaliate and/or fire them.  If you find yourself in this situation, know that the law protects you. You have a right to file a claim and request benefits such as medical expenses and a portion of your lost wages.

At Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill Co., LPA, we fight for injured workers throughout Northeastern Ohio.  We take the time to understand and support our clients.  During challenging times, we provide the care and knowledge they need.  If you believe your employer has retaliated against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim, contact us to discuss how we can help you. Our consultations are always free.

What Is an At-Will Employment State?

Ohio is an at-will employment state. This means that employers typically can fire employees at any time and for any reason.  However, there are exceptions. Employers generally cannot fire employees “at will,” if a written employment agreement or a collective bargaining agreement is in place.   Additionally, an employer in Ohio cannot fire a worker if the termination would violate established public policy.

“Public policy” generally refers to something that is for the good of the public. For instance, in Ohio, the public policy is that workers who get hurt on the job deserve coverage of their related and necessary medical expenses as well as replacement of their lost wages.  So, firing a worker simply because they filed a workers’ compensation claim violates public policy. Some people refer to this as the “public policy exception” to the at-will employment doctrine

In Ohio, this public policy is actually codified in a statute, Ohio Revised Code § 4123.90. The law states that no employer can take “punitive action” against any employee because the worker filed a workers’ compensation claim or “instituted, pursued or testified” in any proceedings under the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Act. Punitive action can include firing a worker as well as demoting or reassigning a worker.

What Relief Can a Wrongful Discharge Claim Provide?

Employee is saddened due to wrongful termination.

If your employer takes any punitive action against you because you got hurt on the job and filed a workers’ compensation claim, Ohio Revised Code § 4123.90 gives you the right to file a lawsuit.  This claim would be filed in the Common Pleas Court in the county where you were employed. If you prevail, you could be entitled to relief such as:

  • Reinstatement with back pay, if your employer fired you
  • Lost wages if your employer demoted, reassigned or took some other punitive action against you.

However, under the law, those damages would be “offset” by your earnings subsequent to your discharge, demotion, reassignment or other punitive action. They would also be offset by any workers’ compensation or unemployment benefits that you received.

To preserve your right to recover damages under this statute, you must:

  • Give the employer written notice of the alleged violation within 90 days of it occurring and prior to your filing of the claim
  • File your claim within 180 days after the violation occurred.

If you fail to meet those deadlines, a court may simply dismiss your claim. So, if you believe that your employer fired you or took some other retaliatory action against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim, you should seek help from a lawyer as soon as possible. At Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill Co., LPA, we can provide a timely and free consultation about your case and help you to understand your rights and all of your legal options.

How Do You Prove a Wrongful Termination Claim?

Wrongful termination document on the table.

To prove that your employer fired, demoted, reassigned or took some other punitive action against you simply because you pursued Ohio workers’ compensation benefits, you will need to gather different types of evidence. Your attorney at Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill Co., LPA, can take all of the steps necessary to preserve and collect this evidence, which may include:

  • Your employment records – These records can show how long you worked for the employer. They can also show whether you received favorable or unfavorable performance reviews. For instance, if you did great at your job for years, but then you were suddenly fired after you filed your workers’ compensation claim, you will have strong evidence that your discharge was a punitive action.
  • Your medical records – These records can show that you were, in fact, injured on the job. In turn, they could establish that your employer took wrongful action after your injury occurred.
  • Your workers’ compensation file – These records can show that date when you filed your workers’ compensation claim. It can also show whether your employer challenged your right to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

If an employer faces a wrongful discharge lawsuit, and the employer sees overwhelming evidence in support of that lawsuit, the employer may choose to reach a settlement about the matter. However, you should work with a lawyer who will be prepared to fight for you in court if going to trial is necessary.

How Can an Ohio Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Help You?

If you were hurt at work, we understand how you have suffered more than just physical harm. Our team at Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill Co., LPA, is here to ease your worries and fears, seek the compensation that you deserve and pursue all of your other goals, which could include getting back to your job.

If you need to file for workers’ compensation benefits, or if you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated for filing for workers’ compensation, contact our Ohio workers’ compensation attorneys today for a free consultation through any of our offices in Youngstown, Warren, Salem, Ravenna or Akron. We are passionate about defending the rights of workers, and we want to help with your case. We can review what happened to you and launch an immediate investigation.