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Can I Be Fired for Making a Workers’ Comp Claim in North Carolina?

On Behalf of Christian Ayers
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North Carolina workers’ compensation insurance is a requirement for virtually every employer in the state. This insurance allows a covered employer to continue operations with confidence because they will not face civil liability for an employee’s damages if they are injured on the job, and the injured worker can receive benefits that help them recover. However, there are many rules employers must follow with regard to their injured employees.

Many workers who suffer injuries at work wonder about their rights regarding termination. Most employment in the state functions on an at-will basis, meaning both the employer and the employee have the right to end the work relationship at any time, with or without providing advance notice.

While the at-will employment law may appear to allow an employer to fire an employee whenever they wish, they may not fire an employee for an illegal reason, such as filing a workers’ compensation claim. If you believe this has occurred, it is vital that you speak with a North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible.

Can I be fired for making a workers comp claim in North Carolina?

Understanding Employer Retaliation

Every employee of every industry in the United States has the right to take certain legally protected actions in good faith without fear of punishment from their employer, even if the employer faces adverse consequences for the legally protected action. Retaliation occurs when an employer punishes an employee for a legally protected action. A few common examples of legally protected actions that are often cited in retaliation claims include:

  • Filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits after a workplace injury.
  • An employee demanding appropriate pay for time worked and/or overtime when applicable.
  • Testifying as a witness in a legal case involving the employer.
  • Acting as a whistleblower against an employer to report them for workplace safety violations or illegal activity.
  • Filing a workplace harassment or discrimination claim in good faith to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

An employee has the right to take any of these actions in good faith, and their employer is not allowed to penalize them for doing so. When it comes to workers’ compensation claims, employers pay insurance premiums to maintain this coverage, and claims from employees can cause their premiums to rise. This, unfortunately, compels some employers to engage in retaliatory actions against their injured employees.
Wrongful termination is one of the most common forms of retaliation. An employer may fire an employee who attempts to file a workers’ compensation claim, hoping that their insurance premiums will not rise and they will not face increased operating costs from their claim. However, the employer will then face a retaliation claim from the employee.

A workers’ compensation attorney is the ideal asset for anyone who has recently suffered an injury on the job. Your attorney can help file your claim for benefits, and they can serve as a check against bad-faith treatment from your employer and/or your employer’s insurance carrier. If you are subjected to any form of unlawful retaliation, your attorney can advise you as to your most viable options for holding your employer accountable.

If you can prove your employer illegally retaliated against you, it is possible to recover various damages with the help of your attorney. You can not only claim compensation for lost pay and benefits, but you may also receive punitive damages because your employer broke the law in retaliating against you. Additionally, your attorney can help ensure you receive the workers’ compensation benefits you rightfully deserve.


Q: What Are the Retaliation Laws?

A: It is unlawful for any employer in the state to retaliate against an employee who engages in any legally protected action under the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA). If an employer violates the REDA and retaliates against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim, they face severe penalties, and you may have grounds for a separate legal action against them.

Q: What Are Three Elements That Constitute Retaliation?

A: To succeed with an employer retaliation claim, the claimant must prove that their action was legally protected, that their employer had an adverse reaction, and that there was a causal connection between the two. This means you must be ready to prove that your employer’s adverse action against you was in direct response to your legally protected action, such as filing your workers’ compensation claim.

Q: Does At-Will Employment Allow an Employer to Fire an Employee Whenever They Want?

A: The at-will employment law in North Carolina may appear to provide an employer with broad latitude to fire an employee whenever they wish, with or without providing a specific reason. While this is true in some ways, at-will employment laws do not allow employers to fire employees for illegal reasons. If you were fired while on workers’ compensation, your employer should provide a reasonable explanation as to why.

Q: What Damages Can You Claim for Employer Retaliation?

A: If your employer retaliated against you by firing you, cutting your hours, or inflicting other financial losses, you have the right to claim compensation for all economic damages you suffered from their actions. You may also have grounds to seek compensation for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and your employer may face liability for punitive damages as well.

Q: Should I Hire an Attorney for Employer Retaliation?

A: An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can assist you in filing your claim for benefits after a work-related injury, and they can ensure your employer handles the situation in good faith. Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler, can provide comprehensive legal representation for all aspects of your work injury case, and we can help determine your optimal path for legal recourse if your employer has retaliated against you.

The right attorney can be a tremendous asset after an injury at work, and the team at Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler has the skills, resources, and experience you need on your side to maximize your recovery. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a workers’ compensation attorney and learn more about the legal services we offer.