Q: If I get hurt on the job, can I still be fired?
A: Yes, to precisely the same extent as if you had not been hurt. In other words, if you have a union contract, you are protected to the same extent by the collective bargaining agreement’s just cause provisions. If not, you are at will employee
Q: Even if I am out on temporary disability, can I still be fired?
A: Yes to the same extent as any other disabled employee.
Q: Does it make any difference if the accident were 100% the company’s fault?
A: No, the worker’s compensation specifically makes no distinction as to fault, and no other statute or common law rule bearing on employment security does either.
Q: Do I have any job security if I get hurt or sick at work, and am temporarily disabled?
A: You have precisely the same rights as someone sick or injured due to non-work causes. That is, if both you and your employer are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act [link to PowerPoint], you may be afforded job security for up to 12 weeks. Collective bargaining agreements and company policies may provide additional protection.
Q: Can I be fired for trying to get worker’s compensation benefits?
A: No, if the attempt to claim the benefits is the determinative factor in you separation from employment.
Q: Doesn’t this happen a lot?
A: Not to this writer’s experience. Most of the time, worker’s compensation benefits are not provided directly by the employer, but rather by an insurance company who generally has no interest (and would rather avoid) the hiring-and-firing process.
Q: Am I still entitled to worker’s compensation benefits if I am fired or laid off?
A: Basically yes. The fact that your job has been abolished, or that your employer no longer wants you around (for any but illegal reasons), clearly does not affect your right to medical treatment or to receive partial permanent disability. It should not affect your temporary benefits, although the issue is much more complicated if you voluntarily leave. See Williams v. Topps Appliance City, 239 N.J.Super. 528 (App.Div.1989)
Q: Am I still entitled to temporary benefits if I get injured at work, am temporarily disabled, come back to work, voluntarily quit, and then can’t find a new job due to the injury, if I remain under treatment for the injury?
A: Generally no. Temporary disability is meant to replace wages lost due to a compensable condition. Having voluntarily removed yourself from employment, the wage loss is due to the quitting, not the condition. However, if you can show that you had a job in view that you couldn’t take because of the injury, you might be entitled to temporary benefits. This “quitting” scenario is discussed in Cunningham v. Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Co., 386 N.J. Super. 423 (App.Div 2006).
Q: Can my second job fire me for receiving worker’s compensation after getting hurt at my first job?
A: It is illegal to discharge anyone because the worker sought worker’s compensation benefits. I am aware of no reported decision involving this scenario, but given the decision in Craig v. Suburban Cablevision, Inc., 274 N.J. Super. 303, 644 A.2d 112 (App. Div. 1994), aff’d, 140 N.J. 623, 660 A.2d 505 (1995), in which the NJ Supreme Court affirmed a decision upholding a retaliation claim for a co-worker who testified in her daughter’s sex discrimination case, there is a fair possibility that a court would recognized such a claim.