The physical pain and stress of a work injury can be overwhelming. Regardless of whether workers suffered a broken leg or a traumatic brain injury, they might have a long road to recovery ahead of them.
Most injured workers want to rush the recovery process and return to work as soon as possible to start providing for their family again. When injuries like this keep individuals from working, many might begin to worry: could their employer lay them off while they collect workers’ compensation benefits and recover from an injury?
The answer to this question can be a bit complicated.
What does Maryland law say?
Under Maryland law, an employer cannot terminate an employee because they:
- Suffered an injury on the job; or
- Filed a claim to recover workers’ compensation.
Doing so would be considered retaliation, which is illegal in the workplace (Maryland Code, Labor & Employment §9-1105).
However, employers might still be able to terminate an employee while they are out on workers’ compensation, or when they return to work in some cases.
When could employers lay off injured employees?
Many employers might try to get around this law and lay off employees when they recover and return to work. This is technically legal since most employees are at-will employees. This means that employers can terminate employees without listing a reason, as long as the termination was not based on a worker’s protected class or employment contract.
There are still only a few reasons employers could terminate an employee after a work injury, including:
- The injury or disability prevents the worker from performing their original job;
- And there are no positions open that accommodate a worker’s disability from the injury; or
- The business cannot operate without filling the position while the injured worker cannot work.
However, most importantly, if an injured worker is under restrictions due to a work injury they remain entitled to benefits if their employer is unable to accommodate them. Benefits include ongoing monetary benefits until they are released to work without physical restrictions, or vocational rehabilitation to help them find new employment if the physical restrictions are permanent and the employer is unable to rehire the injured worker.
If workers worry about their position while they are out recovering from a work injury, it is best to speak with an attorney to provide the injured worker his or her options and the next steps they should take to protect their rights.