Under workers’ compensation, there are obligations for an employer in Louisiana. Terminating an employee on workers’ comp straddles the fine line of legalities. In Louisiana, the law protects employees from being fired while they’re on workers’ compensation or a disability leave.
However, valid and legal reasons exist for firing an employee on workers comp.
Louisiana entitles employees, disabled because of a work related injury, to continued temporary total disability. Most refer to this as TTD.
This ceases when a physician releases them for work. However, the ‘return to work’ often comes under the terms of “light duty”. This holds true until the physician releases the employee for full duty.
If the physician gives work restrictions to the employee, then the employer is responsible for accommodating those restrictions. But, some jobs simply don’t have this option. So, for these cases, if the restrictions cannot be upheld, the employer owes the injured employee TTD benefits.
Obviously, it’s in the employer’s best interest to accommodate the light duty restrictions. This helps, not only to mitigate exposure, but also to return the employee into the routine, before they return to ‘full duty’.
Workers Compensation-Fired While On Light Duty Work?
In some cases, when an employee comes back to work on “light duty restrictions”, they may have a negative attitude toward the situation. Some employees begin to “act out”. Employees commonly experience this. So, employers should meet this with compassion. Most employees do want to get back to their jobs, before the work-related injury.
The employer should work with the employee to get him or her back to work ‘full duty’. If an employee is seeking treatment and wants to return to work, having their job will continue to keep them motivated.
However, the employee may reach maximum medical improvement, commonly known as MMI. This means the doctor or therapist has exhausted his or her resources to help the patient or worker. And, the condition will not improve any further. For most cases, this means that the employee will not be able to return to his or her full work duty, again. When this happens, the state requires the employer to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the employee so that he or she can perform.
Can I Be Terminated While On Workers Comp?
The employer may not be able to accommodate the employee’s return to work restrictions. Or, the employer cannot keep the employee’s position vacant while on workers’ compensation leave. This sometimes leads the employer to hire someone to fill the position and terminate the employee on workers comp.
The employer would have to work with the claims specialists, as well as ensure compliance with company policy before doing so.
If an employer terminates an employee on workers comp, the benefits still belong to the employee. Workers compensation benefits do not terminate with employment, or lack thereof.
Furthermore, the government considers an individual who is totally disabled or with restrictions “unemployable”. Therefore unemployment benefits are not available to them.
Lost time benefits will continue until a physician releases the employee to work “full duty” or placed at MMI.
Firing an Employee on Workers Comp
Workers’ compensation premiums can be costly. In some cases, employers feel as if they must limit an employee’s lost time benefits by seeking opportunities to terminate an employee for a cause that’s unrelated to the work-related injury.
This is not a good idea. However, many…many companies try this.
For starters, not only could the termination backfire with a retaliatory discharge suit, the workers’ comp benefits will continue for the employee. This includes medical and lost time benefits.
If you’re wondering how to fire an employee on workers’ comp, wait until the employee is at their pre-accident status.
Once an employee sustains an injury at their place of employment, terminating their employment will not and should not provide any cost savings to the employer.
Furthermore, if an employer chooses not to hold the position for the injured employee when he or she can return, they may end up paying more.
TDD benefits for lost time don’t have time limitations. These can continue indefinitely.
Consequences of Terminating an Employee on Workers Comp
Sure, there are instances in which it’s legal to terminate an employee on workers comp. The employer must ensure the reasons are valid. They must also dig deep to determine if he or she did everything in their power to assist in the employee’s return to work. This is regardless of if the return to work is full duty or restrictions.
If you’ve been terminated while on workers’ compensation, give us a call at 318-617-HELP. We offer free consultations and want to give you the best possible representation to get you what you’re legally entitled to, with or without the accommodation of your employer.