Many injured workers hesitate to file a formal workers’ compensation claim to obtain the benefits they are entitled to because they are worried about losing their job. While this is a valid concern, the laws in New Jersey protect you from this type of retaliatory action. N.J.S.A. 34:15-39.1, makes it is illegal to discriminate against an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. If you are terminated, and there does not appear to be any reason except your injury, you may file a claim for discrimination within the department of labor. This complaint, which can be found at http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/forms_pdfs/wc/pdf/SCF26.pdf, launches an investigation by the Department of Labor. If your complaint is substantiated, you are entitled to reinstatement and back wages. In addition, the employer is subject to fines /imprisonment or both.
Please keep in mind that this does not mean that your job is guaranteed. There are legitimate instances where an employer may terminate your employment. For instance, the New Jersey Family and Medical Leave Act protects your job for 12 weeks. If you suffer a work related injury and are able to return to work during that time, your employer must provide you with a similar job and similar benefits. However, if you are unable to return to work within that time frame, your employer can fill your position and they are not obligated to provide you with a job beyond the 12 weeks. In addition, if you are unable to do the essential duties of your job because of your injury, your employer may also terminate your employment. Under either of these circumstances, you are likely eligible to collect unemployment while you look for new work. It is important that you advise the unemployment office that you were injured at work and you were not offered a job following your period of disability.
If you have been injured at work and have questions with regard workers’ compensation benefits in general or the issues discussed here, please contact me or any of our workers’ compensation attorneys for a free consultation.