Workers’ Compensation and the Unlawful Discharge of or Discrimination Against an Employee for Claiming Benefits

Did you know that it is against the law for an employer to discriminate against or fire and employee for claiming workers’ compensation benefits? The law is very clear that an employer cannot retaliate against an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim.

N.J.S.A. 34:15-39.1 states in part the following:

It shall be unlawful for any employer or his duly authorized agent to discharge or in any other manner discriminate against an employee as to his employment because such employee has claimed or attempted to claim workers’ compensation benefits from such employer, or because he has testified, or is about to testify in any WC proceeding. For any violation of this Act, the employer or agent shall be punished by a fine of not less than $100.00 or more than $1000.00 or imprisonment for not more than 60 days or both. Any employee so discriminated against shall be restored to his employment and shall be compensated by his employer for any loss of wages arising out of such discrimination.

In the real world, we find that employers certainly do retaliate against employees for filing workers’ compensation claims, but they generally discriminate in ways that are subtle and cannot be proven to violate the above section of the statute. In order for an employee to make a claim under this section of the statute they would have to be able to prove that they attempted to make a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, and that they were discharged from employment because of the claim. If an employee can prove his or her claim, they would be restored to their job and be paid compensation for any missed time. Keep in mind though that these claims are very difficult to prove because the employer can use some other excuse to cover their unlawful actions. Under the law, the timing of the firing is significant, however it alone cannot prove an employee’s case of discrimination, and the injured worker must have some real evidence that the firing was related to making a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. If you or a loved on is facing any of these issues, contact Stark & Stark today.