Know Your Rights After a Work Injury or Illness: A Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in
Greenville, SC Explains
Injuries or illnesses related to work are more common than most people think. It’s easy to feel like these things could never happen to you, but according to statistics, there are over 29,000 nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses each year in South Carolina alone. Many workers who suffer a work-related injury or illness will worry that they could upset their boss by asking how to file a workers’ compensation claim. Let’s face it, most of us worry about asking for time off—even if we still have vacation time left! But after suffering an injury or illness, it is a pretty natural reaction to be anxious about asking for time off—especially if you believe the injury or illness resulted from an instance at work.
Oftentimes, that time off isn’t the only thing you have to worry about. An injured worker will most likely have unexpected medical bills, lost wages, and may even suffer permanent disability from a workplace accident or illness. When this happens, it’s important to call our experienced workers’ compensation lawyers in Greenville, South Carolina for help.
Here at the Hammack Law Firm, our dedicated and experienced team can help you and your family if you suffer a work-related injury or illness and want to file a workers’ comp claim—we’ll even help you ask your boss for time off!
We know how uncomfortable it can be to handle a workers’ comp claim. We also know how difficult it can be to complete the massive amounts of paperwork and respond to the WC Commission or adjuster when you are already injured or ill. That’s why our compassionate and experienced team can take over the process so you can maximize your recovery. To learn more about our services, call to schedule a FREE consultation by dialing (864) 754-0498.
For a free legal consultation, call 864-326-3333
Can I Be Fired for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim in South Carolina?
Like most questions to a lawyer, the answer is—it depends. (We wish it were more simple!) The general rule is that South Carolina is an at-will employment state. That means an employer can terminate you for poor job performance, the color of your socks, or because your boss had a bad morning. Any reason or no reason at all could allow for termination. But like all things in law, there are exceptions (and as lawyers, we love exceptions).
The most common exceptions to employment issues are protections under federal and state law regarding discrimination, which prohibit an employer from making hiring, promotion, firing, or any other job-related decisions based on a protected class. So while an employer can fire you for the color of your socks, an employer cannot fire you for the color of your skin. (Of course, the exception to this exception is if a movie producer is looking for little green men and you aren’t—but thankfully this issue doesn’t come up too often in South Carolina).
Retaliation As a Grounds for Termination
One of the grounds for discrimination under federal and state law is through something called “retaliation.” This is when an employer makes decisions against you to get back at you for filing a claim, reporting misconduct, or other related conduct.
Think back to when we were little kids, if someone punched a friend’s arm, they’d punch back twice in retaliation. That’s okay on a playground (well, uh, sort of…), but it’s definitely not okay in the workplace. Any actions an employer takes against you for filing a workers’ comp claim could be a type of discriminatory retaliation.
Therefore, the general rule under both federal and South Carolina law is that you cannot be fired from your job solely because you have filed a workers’ compensation claim. That means if you have suffered a work-related injury or illness and need to file a WC claim with your employer, an employer cannot legally fire you for wanting to file the claim or for actually filing it. Good to know—right?
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WAIT – I STILL Got Fired for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim; Is This Retaliation?
Now, while the general rule is that an employer cannot fire for retaliation under both federal and South Carolina law, including for filing a workers’ comp claim, there are—yes, you guessed it—more exceptions to the exception! It can be a lot to keep up with. But don’t worry, we’re here for you!
Just because you’re protected under the law to file a workers’ comp claim, that doesn’t mean an employer has no rights in certain circumstances. An employer could still legally fire you when you go out on workers’ compensation in South Carolina if:
- Your job was essential to the business operations and you had to be replaced in order to keep the business operational. When you return, unfortunately, an employer is not obligated to rehire you (if the headmaster at Hogwarts got replaced after being in a workplace incident, no one else is safe)
- Your injuries, illness, or disability prevent you from returning to work in any capacity, even light-duty (i.e., if you lost your eyesight in a workplace accident, you cannot return as a bus driver)
- Due to your disability, it would be unsafe for you or other coworkers to continue working (i.e., think the eyesight example above, but now in a cargo jet)
- There would be an unreasonable financial hardship on the employer to provide reasonable accommodations for your disability
- Other grounds that may be appropriate.
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Worried About Filing for Workers’ Comp? Or Were You Already Fired for Filing a Workers Comp Claim? We Can Help!
When you are suffering from a work-related injury or illness, the last thing you need to worry about is losing your job. Even if you believe your boss may have grounds to legally terminate you, your WC benefits must continue—even if you are replaced. And that is not a determination that you or your employer should be making without a lawyer’s help.
Call our experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Greenville, South Carolina at the Hammack Law Firm to learn more about how we can help you during any stage of the WC claim process—even before you have to ask your boss for time off. We are here and ready to speak with you. Call (864) 754-0498 or use our convenient Contact Us form available here!