Visitor Question

Can I be terminated while off duty because of a work injury?

Submitted By: Dusan (Miami, Florida)

I worked as a personal trainer on a cruise ship. I was employed by a company with headquarters in Miami, FL providing spa services on ships. I injured my knee during cycling class. I went to medical and was signed off duty, waiting to get an MRI at the closest port or I would be sent home for home referral. The company chose the second option. I was given documents for home referral and sent home.

Only when I contacted the company from my homeland about follow up for my injury, did I receive an email that I was terminated. That termination letter was given to me by the spa manager 2 days after injury, while I was off duty.

On my reply that it never happened, I received a completely different response, that the company does not need my approval to terminate me and that I was terminated one day prior to my injury. They said according to the policies I was notified about my termination on the day of my disembarkation, which was 4 days after my injury. The fact is that this never happened either.

I worked on a signed 9 month contract. So I honestly think that my rights were stepped on. The MRI proved that I had torn posterior horn on medial meniscus, which is currently healing fine and I’m ready to go back to work.

I am looking for compensation for my out-of-pocket costs for medical expenses (which looks like company is willing to cover), but for the time while I was out sick, lost wages and reinstatement on my job position. What can I do? Thanks.

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 Dusan,

Take out your employment contract and read it thoroughly. Within the contract should be a clause addressing grounds for termination. Grounds might include your involvement in the commission of a “Crime of Moral Turpitude,” or might also include “Impossibility of Performance.” In your case the Crimes of Moral Turpitude clause doesn’t apply. However, the Impossibility of Performance clause may.

Let’s compare an employee without a contract of employment to an employee with a contract of employment:

Employee without an employment contract

The employee is injured in the job while downloading freight off a truck. After medical treatment and recovery, the doctor determines the employee is able to return to work, but not to the same job duties he had previously. Instead, the doctor determines the worker may return to work at a capacity which accommodates the employee’s physical limitations.

Now, if the employer has duties which can accommodate the injured worker, the employer may offer the employee a job. However, if the employer does not have a job which can accommodate the employee’s physical limitations, the employer does not have to offer the employee a job.

Employee with an employment contract

The employment contract specifically sets out what the worker’s job duties will be. Then, the employee is injured on the job, or even off the job. The doctor determines the employee will be unable to perform the specific work duties he was required to perform under the employment contract. The employer has openings for additional employees in varying positions. However, the injured employee is not given an opportunity to accept one of these positions. The employee is discharged.

In this case, because the injury prevented the employee from performing the specific duties set out in the employment contract, the employer has every right to terminate the employee. This may have occurred in your case.

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) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: November 1, 2017

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