Workers’ compensation insurance can be invaluable to employees injured on the job. It can help pay medical bills related to workplace injuries, and even provide some wage compensation for those unable to work full-time. Washington state employers are required to provide this benefit by purchasing coverage through the Department of Labor and Industries.
When employees file claims, it can hit employers twice — not only is the employee unavailable to produce goods and services, but the employer might feel the bite of increased workers’ compensation premiums. For these reasons, employees can be reluctant to file claims for fear of being let go and replaced by an able-bodied, less-expensive worker.
What is Washington State Law on Workers Compensation?
No employer may discharge or in any manner discriminate against any employee because such employee has filed or communicated to the employer an intent to file a claim for compensation or exercises any rights provided under this title. …
However, this does not mean a person can’t be fired while a workers’ compensation claim is open. Washington is an “at-will” state, meaning an employer is not required to give warnings or follow specific steps prior to terminating an employee. If an employer can demonstrate a legitimate reason for termination, they may do it at any time. Some reasons could be:
- Poor performance by the employee;
- Not observing workplace health and safety standards;
- Layoffs due to financial difficulties;
- Restructuring of the organization.
The matter becomes complicated when a person suspects that the real reason for being fired or laid off is the workers’ comp claim. In this case, it is important to collect as much documentation as possible.
Workers in Washington state may request a written statement outlining the reason they were terminated. The business must respond within 10 days of receiving the request. Send a letter to the business by certified mail and request a return receipt. This will establish the start of the 10-day window.
Also, keep any emails and details about treatment for the related injury. Having copies of past, positive performance reviews may also help support the assertion that a termination was related to a workers’ compensation claim.
Whistleblower Protection Program
If a workplace injury is due to unsafe working conditions, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides additional safeguards through the Whistleblower Protection Program. Companies may not take an “adverse action” against an employee for filing a claim against the employer over unsafe conditions.
While this claim is separate from a workers’ compensation claim, it does provide additional federal backing for an employee injured because of a potential OSHA violation.
Contact an Experienced Washington Workers Compensation Lawyer
If you feel you’re not getting the right compensation for your on-the-job injury, or that you have been treated unfairly when it comes to your workers’ compensation claim in Washington State contact Lehmbecker Law today. You need a good legal advocate on your side, and we can discuss your case to see what type of help we may be able to provide to get you the compensation you deserve.