Wrongful Discharge

Wrongful Discharge for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim

Sometimes the unthinkable happens after you are hurt on the job. You follow the steps after a work injury;

  1. Report the injury to your employer,
  2. Seek medical attention,
  3. Complete the Employee’s Claim for Compensation for a Work-Related Injury or Occupational Disease (DWC Form-041),
  4. send the claim form to the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation.

The next thing you know, you get fired. Your employer either gives you no reason, or the reason is that because of your injury you can no longer perform your job.

Being Fired After Getting Injured on the Job

Did you get fired because you reported an injury and sought workers’ compensation? In Texas, it is illegal to fire an employee for filing a legitimate claim for workers’ compensation. In addition to prohibiting employers from firing employees who bring legitimate workers’ compensation claims, Section 45.001 of the Texas Code prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee who has hired Texas workers compensation attorney. Section 45.001 also prohibits employees for retaliating against employees who file a workers’ compensation lawsuit, or for testifying in a workers’ comp proceeding, on their own behalf or on behalf of an injured co-worker.

Texas Employment-at-Will Doctrine

The basic rule in Texas is known as an employee-at-will rule, which means that if there is not an express agreement to the contrary, either party in an employment relationship may end the relationship or change the terms and conditions of employment at any time for any reason, or even for no particular reason at all, with or without notice. So basically, your employer can fire you at any time for any reason. There are several exceptions to this basic employment-at-will framework, including retaliatory discharge. If an employer fires you in violation of Section 45.001, you are entitled to reinstatement to your previous position, and to reasonable money damages, both past and future. In addition to lost wages, you may recover compensation for mental anguish, pain and suffering, and punitive damages (to punish the employer’s wrongful act). You may also be entitled to injunctive relief, which means a judge will enjoin the employer from future violations of your rights.

Texas Anti-retaliation Statute

The anti-retaliation statute in Texas, Section 45.001, is one of the most employee-friendly statutes Texas has. However, determining whether or not a termination is retaliatory is not as straightforward as it seems, and the burden falls to the employee to prove it. Depending on the nature of the injury, and especially depending on how long you will be out of work, there might be a legitimate need to bring in a replacement. What if an employee is injured because she was engaging in horseplay at work, and she is fired for violating company policy after filing a claim? Is that retaliation for filing the claim, or is it allowable because company policies were violated? Each case is different, but this complex area of the law often requires legal help to navigate. If you have been fired from your job or had any other adverse employment action taken against you that you think is retaliatory, contact our workplace injury lawyers today for a no-obligation consultation