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How to deal with retaliation after filing a workers' comp claim

We often hear these sentiments and questions: After filing a workers' compensation claim, my employer is treating me so badly that I want to quit. Can I quit my job without it impacting my case?

All too often, we find that employers either directly or indirectly retaliate against workers who are injured on the job or make workers' compensation claims. Overt retaliation may occur when an employer fires a worker directly after an accident. We have even seen employers admit to firing our clients because of the accident, because they were "being sued," or because they were "too much of a risk."

More often, however, the employer engages in indirect conduct designed to make the injured worker miserable, to the point that she or he quits. Keep reading this post for examples of how this happens and protections contained in Florida law.

Examples of indirect retaliation

Managers may tell you that you only have 24 hours to report the accident or that you have to schedule doctor appointments and therapy during off work hours. Both statements are untrue and are designed to make the receipt of benefits a hardship.

Employers may change your shift, especially if it interferes with such things as transportation or child care. They may publish or talk about your medical treatment. They may imply you are to blame for insurance rates going up or for lost safety bonuses. They may reassign you to menial or demeaning work. Often, they offer light duty work which is actually meaningless duties designed to draw attention to your injury or make a spectacle of you to fellow employees. On the other extreme, they may insist you do "light duty" work which is actually unsuitable for your actual, physical restrictions.

You may find the employer scrutinizing your every action, waiting for any opportunity to discipline or fire you. The employer may even manufacture circumstances intended to justify terminating you.

In our experience, we have found that employers have a strong prejudice against injured workers', viewing them as frauds or freeloaders, looking to get rich at their expense. They act out of that prejudice to try and find a reason to fire you, or they try to coerce you into quitting by making your work degrading or miserable.

What types of conduct does Florida workers' compensation law prohibit

Section 440.205 of the Workers' Compensation Act prohibits an employer from discharging, threating to discharge, intimidating or coercing any employee because that employee has made a valid claim for benefits or is claiming workers compensation. If you find the employer engaging in conduct that seems to fit in this category, we encourage you to:

  1. Talk to your attorney immediately, and 
  2. Keep a detailed logbook, memorializing every behavior.

In general, we also prefer you not quit your job unless the conduct is dangerous or becomes so unbearable that any reasonable person would quit if they were in your shoes. It is simply easier to prove a case of workers compensation retaliation if you are fired versus you resigning or quitting.

Regardless, the workers' compensation law does offer a remedy for this type of behavior that we here are equipped and ready to enforce.

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