New Jersey Workers’ Compensation law mandates that employer’s carry insurance to cover employees who are injured on the job. The insurance is designed to pay for accident related medical costs, compensate the injured worker for lost wages while under active medical care, and provide a monetary award to compensate the worker for any permanent disability attributed to the work accident. However, in order to be entitled to these benefits, the injured employee must first notify the employer of the accident and request medical treatment under workers’ compensation.
Due to this “notice” requirement, many injured employees are hesitant to file a formal workers’ compensation claim or even pursue the medical treatment they need. One of the most common questions we encounter at an initial client consultation is: “Can my employer fire me for filing a workers’ compensation claim?”
The NJ Workers’ Compensation Act expressly addresses this question. N.J.S.A. 34:15-39.1 states in pertinent part: “It shall be unlawful for any employer to discharge or in any other manner discriminate against an employee as to his employment because such employee has claimed or attempted to claim workmen’s compensation benefits from such employer, or because he has testified, or is about to testify, in any proceeding under the chapter to which this act is a supplement.”
Although the language of the statute specifically prohibits an employer from discharging or discriminating against an employee as to his employment, there are some ways around this. For example, an employer does not have to allow you to return to your job if you are unable to perform its essential responsibilities or if it would be hazardous to your safety or health or the safety or health of other employees, clients, or customers[i]. When it comes to accident cases one must take up the BAC test – Breath Test to understand if the party was intoxicated.
If you have been injured on the job, it is very important to notify your employer of the accident and need for accident related medical treatment. After you have done that, contact a personal injury attorney or a workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your entitlement to WC benefits and any potential implication of retaliatory discharge/discrimination.
[i] Malone v. Aramark Servs., Inc., 334 N.J. Super. 669, 681 (Law Div. 2000).
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