Visitor Question

Can I be fired after an injury for using crutches?

Submitted By: Evelyn (Irving, Texas)

I lost my balance at work on Monday 4/8, while walking across a classroom. I went to the doctor the following day. I got an x-ray, a shot for pain, anti inflammatory meds, crutches, and was prescribed a course of physical therapy.

I called my administrator and told her all this, and that I had a return-to-work note for Friday 4/12. My administrator told me I could not return while on crutches and was advised to get clearance from the doctor before returning.

On 4/12 I was still on crutches and went back to my doctor. I was told to get off the crutches for a couple of days and return to work on 4/15. After calling my administrator to report my status, I was told that I had been discharged for not returning on 4/12.

Is this legal? Are they allowed to fire me after an injury like that, even if I communicated my status and was able to return to work the next business day?

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Evelyn,

Texas, like many other states, is an “at-will” employment state. Employment “at-will” means an employee can be fired at any time without any reason, explanation, or warning.

There are, however, some exceptions to this at-will employment rule. One of the key exceptions is in the context of a workplace injury.

Under Texas law, you have the right to receive medical care to treat your workplace injury or illness for as long as it is medically necessary and related to the workplace injury.

Also, Texas labor laws make it illegal for an employer to discriminate or retaliate against an employee who files a workers’ compensation claim.

The Texas Workers’ Compensation statutes provide as follows:

“DISCRIMINATION AGAINST EMPLOYEES PROHIBITED. A person may not discharge or in any other manner discriminate against an employee because the employee has filed a workers’ compensation claim in good faith or hires a lawyer to represent the employee in a claim…” 

You have thirty (30) days from the date of your workplace injury to start a workers’ compensation action. You can begin your claim by filing an Employee’s Claim for Compensation for a Work-Related Injury or Occupational Disease (DWC Form-041) with the appropriate department within the Texas Department of Insurance.

From your question, it’s not clear whether you have filed a workers’ compensation claim even though you indicate you were injured while at work. Filing the claim may give you additional rights, including the possibility of getting your job back.

Texas Agencies for Injured Workers

You may also consider contacting the Texas Office of Injured Employee Counsel (OIEC). The OIEC offers assistance at local offices across Texas and works on behalf of injured employees who are not represented by an attorney.

The OIEC is a state agency, but is separate from the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation. You can learn more about what the OIEC has to offer through its website.

Additional information about workers’ compensation claims in Texas, and your rights when injured on the job can be found at the Texas Department of Insurance website for injured workers.

An experienced personal injury attorney can answer any questions you may have, and let you know your full rights under Texas law.

Learn more here: Getting Fired After an Injury

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,

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