If you have been injured while performing work-related tasks, you may qualify for workers’ compensation. If you decide to file a workers’ compensation claim and your employee fires you or threatens to fire you because of it, you have grounds for legal retaliation. In fact, even if your employer starts treating you differently and subjecting you to harassment at the workplace, you may have a retaliation claim against your employer while you still work there.
Florida state statutes state that “no employer shall discharge, threaten to discharge, intimidate, or coerce any employee by reason of such employee’s valid claim for compensation or attempt to claim compensation under the Workers’ Compensation Law.”
It is important to note that employers do not have to fire the employee in order for the employee to legally retaliate.
Filing a retaliatory discharge claim
In order to file a retaliatory discharge claim, the employee must prove 3 things.
1) They engaged in an activity that is protected by the statute.
2) Their employment was negatively impacted.
3) The negative impact was related to the statute-protected activity.
After these things have been proven, the employee must then also prove that the action of their employer was in direct retaliation to their workers’ compensation claim. This is done by proving:
1) The employer was aware of the statue-protected activity.
2) The employer negatively impacted the worker’s employment soon after learning about the claim.
If the employer can come up with a legitimate reason for firing/threatening/coercing/etc. the employee, it is then up to the employee to show that the reason provided by the employer is not true or is insufficient enough to warrant their actions. Just because an employer cannot fire an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim does not mean that they cannot fire an employee for some other justifiable reason. Florida operates under what is known as an at-will doctrine. This means that either the employer or the employee can terminate the employment at any point.
If a worker is not fulfilling their duty, it is an option for the employer to replace the worker with someone who will perform that task. The retaliation claim itself is an exception to this at-will principle. If you believe yourself to be in a situation that warrants legal retaliation because of an unreasonable action on the part of your employer, you may have grounds for action. It is advised that you seek out the services of a legal professional who is experienced and knowledgeable about Florida’s employment laws.