Many workers who are injured on the job wonder if they can be fired for filing a workers’ comp claim in NC. The answer is no. But the analysis does not stop there. There are a number of important state and federal regulations that impact whether and when an injured worker can be fired in NC.
The North Carolina Retaliatory Discharge Act (REDA) prevents a North Carolina employer from firing, suspending, demoting or relocating for retaliatory reasons an employee for any of the following “protected activities”:
- A work-related injury
- Wages, salary, work hours
- Workplace safety or health
- Mine safety or health
- Sickle cell or hemoglobin
- National Guard
- Genetic testing
- Juvenile justice system
- Domestic violence restraining order
- Pesticide exposure
- Reporting activities under the Paraphernalia Control Act
REDA claims should be filed with the NC Department of Labor within 180 days of the employer’s negative action. This includes an employee who has been fired for filing a workers’ comp claim in NC. The North Carolina Department of Labor will investigate the claim and either attempt to address the issue or issue a “right to sue” letter which authorized the complainant to proceed to court. A judge can award damages including lost wages, lost benefits and other economic losses, as well as triple damages and attorney’s fees.
Note that REDA does not prevent an employer from firing an employee because they can not do the work. And under many circumstances this is allowed. In fact, we need to understand that North Carolina is a “right to work” state, which ironically means that with a few restrictions employers have the right to fire employees for any reason, or for no reason whatsoever. So, absent some other regulation or law, an employer may fire a worker who is injured on the job and can no longer perform the work.
In general unless there is a specific prohibition against firing a worker an employer may hire and fire employees as they see fit. These prohibitions include federal restrictions (race, color, religion, sex, and national origin, age and disability, and certain civil rights related firings), North Carolina REDA limitations and certain public policy reasons. Injured workers may also have some protections against being fired under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
Employees who have a contract of employment with their employer may have protections in that agreement. And employees who are covered under a union contract have their own protections.
If you or a loved one has been injured on the job and are concerned if you can be fired for filing a workers’ comp claim in NC, please give us a call for your free consultation with at Board Certified NC Workers’ Compensation Attorney.