Employers are certainly advised to be very careful about firing an employee who is out on a workman’s comp claim.
The law can’t keep your situation from becoming complicated.
Once you’ve reached maximum medical improvement the employer has a little wriggle room. For example, if you have work restrictions your employer may tell you they can’t accommodate those restrictions and terminate your employment at that point.
Many employers don’t terminate, but attempt to retaliate in other, more subtle ways. They may demote you, slash your hours, or cut your pay. They may also make groundless accusations or take other unwarranted disciplinary actions.
It’s a good idea to document everything that happens from the moment your claim begins.
It’s also a good idea to keep copies of any evaluations you receive, promotion records, and pay raise. They’ll serve as direct contradictions of any claims that you were a bad employee. And if you think you have grounds for a suit, you need to move fast.
Remember, if your employer does discharge you unlawfully the State of New Jersey allows you to sue. The employer can be fined and forced to restore your employment. But the more time you leave between the retaliatory action and your response to it, the more wriggle room you give the employer to claim the action had nothing to do with your workman’s comp claim. There is a two year statute of limitations, but you don’t want to wait that long.
Keep in mind if you receive a “Notice of Ability to Return to Work,” you should go even if you don’t feel at 100%. Make sure your doctor documents what you can and can’t do, and share that with your employer. But go, because if you don’t the employer can fire you as a no-show.
In addition to any trouble you may have claiming your benefits in the first place, the possibility of your employment situation getting complicated is an excellent reason to get a workman’s comp lawyer from the moment you get injured at work.
While getting medical treatment is the first step, your second one, at the first available opportunity, should be retaining legal counsel. Employers are going to be more hesitant to create problems for you when they know you’ve got someone fighting for you.