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Can You Be Terminated While on Workers’ Comp in North Carolina?

On Behalf of Christian Ayers
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Every year, thousands of workers across the United States sustain injuries while working. Each state has different workers’ compensation laws, and the state enforces some of the most robust workers’ compensation laws in the country. These laws aim to provide financial security to injured workers while shielding their employers from civil liability for workplace injuries.

While most employers in the state handle their injured employees’ workers’ compensation claims in good faith, others, unfortunately, do not. One common concern among injured workers is whether they can be fired while on workers’ compensation. Technically, the answer is yes, but the real answer to this question is more nuanced. If you are unsure how to respond to your recent firing while on workers’ compensation, a workers’ comp attorney in Charlotte is the ideal resource to consult.

Can you be terminated while on workers comp in North Carolina?

Understanding Wrongful Termination

The term “wrongful termination” applies to any illegal firing of an employee. Most of the employment in the state and elsewhere in the United States operates on an at-will basis. This means that a working relationship between an employee and an employer continues at the will of both parties. Both the employer and the employee have the right to terminate a working relationship for any reason or no reason at all, with or without providing advance notice.

A wrongful termination is an illegal firing. While at-will employment generally provides employers with broad flexibility to fire employees as they deem appropriate, they may not fire employees for illegal discriminatory reasons. For example, it is illegal to fire someone on the basis of their race or skin color. It is also illegal to fire someone for a legally protected action, such as filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits in good faith.

Workers’ compensation insurance is just like any other type of insurance in that a policyholder pays a premium to maintain their coverage. Your employer pays a premium to their insurance carrier, and as long as they continue paying their premium, they continue to be covered if their employees suffer injuries at work. However, if many employees from the same policyholder file claims in a short time, the insurance carrier could increase the premium rate on the policy.

If an employer fires an employee on workers’ compensation in an effort to avoid increased insurance premiums, this will likely qualify as a wrongful termination. Workers’ compensation is ostensibly a safety net for the injured worker, both in terms of providing compensation for their damages and inability to work and providing job security. There is an expectation that the injured worker’s job will be waiting for them when they recover, or at the very least, that their employer will have a similar position ready for them when they can return to work. If you were recently fired on workers’ compensation in the state, it’s a good idea to consult an experienced worker’s comp attorney to determine whether the firing was lawful and, if not, what you can do about it.


Q: How Do I Know if I’ve Been Wrongfully Terminated?

A: Wrongful termination occurs whenever an employer fires an employee for an illegal or discriminatory reason. If you are unsure whether your recent firing was legal under North Carolina law, it is vital to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. You may not only have grounds for a civil claim against your employer, but they may also face additional penalties depending on the nature and severity of their breach of United States anti-discrimination laws.

Q: How Long Does Workers’ Compensation Last?

A: Typically, a worker in the state can receive up to 500 weeks of weekly disability benefits. Workers’ compensation continues until the employee is able to return to work, but if they are disabled for longer than the typical 500-week limit, they may qualify for an extension or for permanent disability benefits. A worker’s compensation attorney can advise you as to how long you could expect to remain on workers’ compensation.

Q: How Do I File a Wrongful Termination Case?

A: If you believe your recent firing was discriminatory, you will need to file an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claim before proceeding with a civil suit against your employer. You will need an experienced attorney’s assistance with this process. Wrongful termination in response to your workers’ compensation claim could amount to an employer retaliation suit, and this type of case is very difficult to navigate without legal counsel you can trust to advise you.

Q: When Can an Employee Be Fired on Workers’ Compensation?

A: An employer can only fire an employee on workers’ compensation if they have a legitimate and nondiscriminatory reason to do so. The state operates on an at-will basis when it comes to employment, so an employer typically does not need to provide a specific reason or even offer advance notice before firing an employee. However, if an employer fires an employee who is out on workers’ compensation, this is likely to appear as a means of avoiding further liability for the employee’s injury. If you are unsure whether a recent termination was lawful, consult an attorney as soon as possible.

Q: Can I Sue My Employer for a Workplace Injury?

A: Typically, an injured employee in North Carolina cannot sue their employer unless the employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance as required by state law. If they do have this insurance, the employee must file a claim for workers’ compensation to recover their damages. However, if the employer or a coworker intentionally caused the injury or a third party outside of the workplace caused the injury, the victim may have grounds for a civil suit along with their workers’ compensation claim.

The attorneys at Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler regularly represent injured workers throughout the state, and we know the various challenges they can face in terms of their employers’ handling of their claims. If you recently experienced an injury at work and/or a termination that you believe was unlawful, it is vital to consult legal counsel you can trust as soon as possible. Contact Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler today to schedule your consultation with our team and learn more about the legal services we provide.