When you’re injured on the job in South Carolina, you are typically entitled to file a workers’ compensation claim. Many employees fear that doing so will cause them to get fired, but there’s no need to worry. You cannot be terminated for filing a workers’ compensation claim or collecting benefits, and your employer must make reasonable accommodations for you when you return to work.
South Carolina is a “right to work” state, which means a person can be fired at any time for just about any reason – but not an illegal reason. Firing someone because they filed a workers’ compensation claim is known as retaliatory termination, and it’s prohibited under state law.
If the doctor returns you tolight duty work,your employer must accommodate these restrictions, or you will be able to remain out of work and your temporary total weekly checks will continue.If you believe you are unable to perform that work, you may revisit the restrictions with your doctor, and request a hearing with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission.
While it’s understandable to not want to “ruffle feathers” with your boss by filing a workers’ compensation claim, you shouldn’t fear being fired because you did so. If your employer fires you in retaliation for filing a claim or collecting benefits, they open themselves up to a civil lawsuit.
South Carolina law is very clear about this, with Code Ann. Section 41-1-80 stating: “No employer may discharge or demote any employee because the employee instituted or caused to be instituted, in good faith, any proceeding under the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law.”
In addition to banning retaliatory termination, the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission prohibits employers from forcing a worker to leave their job through workplace harassment or discriminatory treatment.
Remember, the South Carolina workers’ compensation system is in place for a reason, and it is intended to be utilized whenever needed. It encourages employers to keep a safe working environment and allows for employees to seek fair compensation when an accident occurs (even if the accident was the employee’s fault).
Am I Even Eligible for Workers’ Compensation?
Almost all employers in South Carolina are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance if they have fouror moreemployees. There are some exceptions, however, including agricultural employees, railroad employees, Textile Hall Corporation employees, and some real estate agents. If you have questions about your company’s coverage, reach out to your supervisor or HR department.
If you are covered under your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance, you can file a claim for injuries and accidents that occur at work, as well as illnesses and repetitive injuries that have occurred as a result of your job. Pre-existing conditions worsened by your job are also covered.
You must report your South Carolina workplace injury within 90 days, but you are highly advised to do so as soon as possible. This allows for the process to get started right away so you can receive benefits sooner. It also lessens the opportunity for your employer to downplay your injury or claim you were injured elsewhere.
Many people believe they can see their own doctor following their workplace injury or illness, but that simply isn’t the case. You must go to the doctor assigned to you by your employer’s insurance representative. However, if the injury is a medical emergency, you should go to the nearest hospital. In this case, you do not have to see an “approved physician.”
Valid Reasons for An Employer to Dismiss a Returning Worker
Although South Carolina workers cannot be terminated for filing a workers’ compensation claim or collecting benefits, they can still be fired for other reasons.
Here are some examples of when an employee might be fired after returning to work:
- If the employer replaced them with someone else in order to fill a key position, and no longer has a suitable position for the returning worker.
- The returning worker is no longer capable of performing their job.
- There’s no position available that accommodates the worker’s injury-related disability or working restrictions.
- The cost of refitting a workspace to accommodate the employee’s disability would be an unreasonable financial hardship for the employer.
- The employer determines their job performance does not meet company standards.
However, it should be noted that some employers will try to claim one of the reasons above for letting an employee go, when it’s actually retaliatory termination. If you believe this has happened to you, it is imperative for you to contact a South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney.
Can I Change Jobs While Receiving Workers’ Comp Benefits?
Now that you know you can’t legally be fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim, you might be wondering if you’re allowed to quit your job while receiving benefits. The short answer is yes – but it might come at a cost.
First, let’s talk about the three types of workers’ compensation benefits you can receive as a South Carolina worker: medical benefits, lost wages, and permanent disability. Your medical benefits are easy – they’re “portable,” so they will carry over when you get a new job. You will also continue to receive compensation for permanent disability if that applies.
However, quitting your job while you’re recovering from your injury could very likely cause you to lose your weekly checks for lost wages. Leaving your job will give your employer reason to argue that they are no longer required to pay lost wage benefits to you – especially if they have been accommodating to you and your injury, and if your new job has an equal or higher salary than your old job.
For this reason, it is usually worth staying at your current job until your workers’ compensation case is settled, to avoid unnecessary complications or possible legal battles.
Of course, every case is unique. If you’re considering leaving your job while receiving workers’ compensation benefits, you are advised to speak to a South Carolina personal injury lawyer before making any moves.
Contact McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates Today
McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates has been representing workers’ compensation clients in South Carolina for more than four decades. During this time, we have become highly experienced at protecting workers’ rights as they seek to rebuild their lives following a workplace accident.
We know South Carolina law, and we fight hard for each and every client to receive fair treatment following their workplace injury. This includes negotiating with stubborn insurance companies, making sure they receive fair compensation, and going in front of a judge when a settlement can’t be reached. In addition, we make sure our clients are treated fairly by their employer throughout the entire process.
We also fight for those who have been fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim. We encourage anyone who has been wrongfully terminated as a result of their South Carolina workers’ compensation claim to contact us for a free case evaluation.
We have seven offices across the Midlands of South Carolina, in Aiken, Camden, Columbia, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg, and Sumter. Give us a call today at 888-353-5513. It won’t cost you anything to see if we can help.®