Forced To Resign Due to Work-Related Injury?

"Forced resignation" is just another way of saying "fired." If an employee is let go due to a job-related injury or illness, it's grounds for legal action.

By , J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

If you've been forced to quit because of an on-the-job injury, you should consider your legal options. The law treats a forced resignation just like a termination. So, if you were forced out for illegal reasons, you may have a wrongful termination claim.

Workers' Compensation Laws

Unscrupulous employers may try to get rid of employees with on-the-job injuries for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the employer wants to avoid workers' compensation claims or doesn't want to be required to accommodate any work restrictions the employee might have. If the employee needs time off work to recover from a workplace injury, the employer might want to replace the employee permanently rather than holding the job open.

Fired for Filing a Workers' Comp Claim

Regardless of the employer's underlying reasons, it is illegal to fire an employee because that person has suffered a work-related injury or filed a workers' comp claim. Such injuries are subject to workers' compensation laws, which prohibit employers from firing employees just because they file a workers' compensation claim or collect benefits.

The whole point of workers' compensation insurance is to provide a no-fault system to pay employees for the medical expenses they incurand the work time they losedue to on-the-job injuries. If employers could simply fire any employee who makes a workers' compensation claim, the purpose of the system would be defeated.

Forced Resignation Is Resignation

Rather than firing employees, some employers try to force them to quit, either by explicitly stating that the employee must quit or be fired, or by making the employee's work life so difficult that the employee will be forced to leave. Often, the employer is trying to avoid wrongful termination claims and unemployment benefits.

If an employee quits voluntarily, the employee will not be able to sue for wrongful termination. And, the employee will likely be found ineligible for unemployment compensation, which is available only to employees who are out of work through no fault of their own.

However, if an employer forces an employee to resign, that is not a voluntary quitting. The law refers to this as constructive discharge. If the employer forces the employee out, or creates an environment so miserable that it would cause any reasonable employee to quit, this is the legal equivalent of a termination. An employee in this situation has all of the legal claims that would be available if the employer had come right out and said, "You're fired."

Contact an Employment or Workers' Comp Attorney

If you are forced out of your job because of a workplace injury, you should consider a consultation with an experienced employment or workers' compensation lawyer. A lawyer can help you negotiate a severance package to soften the blow. If your employer isn't willing to compromise, a lawyer can explain your options and take steps to protect your rights.

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