The purpose of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act is to provide protection for people who have been injured in association with their employment. The law governs insurance requirements for employers, who must cover you as soon as you begin employment, and prohibits any employer from harassing or firing you in retaliation for filing a claim. If they do, they could be held liable in a civil lawsuit. If you feel threatened by potential termination by your employer for filing a claim, it is crucial that you consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help protect you.
Workers’ Compensation Coverage
Workers’ compensation covers not only injuries, but illnesses as well, as long as they are related to the workplace. These injuries can range from the obvious, such as a slip and fall on a construction site, to tendonitis developed over time from typing, for example. These injuries are only covered if they occur in the course of business (not if they occur due to illegal activity or intoxication, even if on-site of the workplace), and independent contractors are excluded from coverage (but not part-time workers). Workers’ compensation benefits cover lost income, medical-related costs, and rehabilitation expenses, including new job-training, if necessary.
Legal Protection from Retaliation
Pennsylvania (and federal) law provide protection from retaliation. Employers must keep employees on throughout their claim until they have reached maximum medical improvement (i.e. the condition cannot improve any further). After this, your employer is obligated to make reasonable efforts to accommodate your injuries as an existing employee (in the interest of you being able to continue your job). However, if you have filed a workers’ compensation claim, it is advised that you contact an experienced attorney early on in the process in order to ensure that you are protected afterward.
Potential Civil Trial
If an employer does fire an employee after they file a workers’ compensation claim (i.e. in bad faith), although it would appear suspicious in court, in a civil trial, the employee’s attorney would have to prove that there is a connection between the claim filed and the retaliatory termination. Because Pennsylvania is an “at-will” employment state, it can sometimes make it easier on employers to justify firing an employee in retaliation. However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held that termination of at-will employment cannot threaten a clear mandate of public policy (such as firing in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim). In addition, in November 2014, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court issued a precedential ruling finding that an employee could pursue a wrongful termination after she was fired for seeking workers’ compensation for a job-related injury, even though she did not file a formal claim with the state’s Workers’ Compensation Bureau (only her own employer). They ruled that allowing for this kind of termination would defy public policy in violation of the PA Workers’ Compensation Act.
Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
Filing a workers’ compensation claim, and seeing it through to the end, is no simple task. Hiring a skilled workers’ compensation attorney as early as possible if you need to file a claim and ensure that you are protected throughout the process is imperative. The experienced team at Solnick & Associates LLC can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.