Can my Texas employer fire me following a workplace accident?
Employees in Texas may not be fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim or hiring an attorney.
Though often preventable, workplace accidents happen at an alarming rate. Take, for example, the year 2015 in Texas. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.6 incidents for every 100 workers across the state. Of those, 0.6 for every 100 people led to time off work.
Many of these accidents lead to devastating injuries that alter whether or not someone is able to do his or her job. That is what leaves many people wondering: Could my employer fire me for my workplace accident?
Most states in the U.S. require companies to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Texas does not, save a few exceptions when it comes to private companies working on public projects. There are consequences to not providing workers’ comp. As the Texas Department of Insurance points out, employees who are injured on the job may sue a non-subscribing business to cover the cost of treatment.
Regardless of whether an employee files a claim for workers’ compensation or sues the company, it is illegal in Texas to fire someone on the grounds that he or she has taken action. The Texas Labor Code clearly states that an employee may not be discriminated against or terminated for any of the following:
- Hiring an attorney for help with an injury claim
- Filing a claim for workers’ compensation
- Testifying in a proceeding regarding the injury
Additionally, the law states that employers who violate the code may be responsible for any ensuing damages.
There is another area of the law that extends protection to people who have disabilities, whether it happened due to a workplace injury or a prior event. In Texas, no one may be discriminated against – including suffering a termination – if he or she has a disability.
However, he or she must be able to do the essential functions of the job. Employers must be able to make reasonable accommodations in order to ensure the worker is able to do the job. For example, it may be necessary to give someone additional training, change a schedule or make certain buildings handicap accessible.
Some disabilities limit a person’s ability to do a job entirely. This is especially true in jobs that require manual labor. The law suggests reassigning injured workers to vacant positions when possible. An injured worker may be cleared to work on restricted duty and perform tasks that would be less physically demanding.
When termination may be acceptable
Texas is an at will employment state, which means companies essentially may let people go at any time and for any reason, as long as they are in compliance with discrimination laws. Therefore, if someone returns to work following a disability, accepts a light duty position and does not perform the job well, the employer may terminate the employee.
This is part of the reason it is imperative for anyone injured to receive detailed instruction from a doctor and provide that information to the employer. Anyone who has concerns about this issue should speak with an employees’ rights attorney in Texas.