There are many things in life that are not fair. At least one of those things rears its ugly head in Pennsylvania workers’ comp. Unless an employee has a contract, or is a member of a union, there is very little protection for the employee from being fired from his or her job while out of work on workers’ compensation in PA. While an employee cannot legally be fired in Pennsylvania for pursuing a workers’ compensation claim [Shick v. Shirey, 716 A.2d 1231 (Pa. 1998)], it is often difficult to prove the reason for the termination is the pursuit of a workers’ comp case (as opposed to just the absenteeism of the injured worker). Please note, also, that workers’ compensation benefits in PA continue regardless of whether a totally disabled injured worker has been terminated from his or her job or not.
Federal laws do offer some protections for the injured worker caught in this position. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can provide some job protection for a period of time. If an injured worker is terminated from his or her job, COBRA may allow the private health insurance coverage to continue, with the injured worker able to assume the payments at the group rate used by his or her employer.
Unfortunately, though, there is often very little that we, as Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys, can do to protect our clients from being terminated from their jobs while they are disabled from work and receiving workers’ compensation benefits.