Visitor Question

Is poor treatment by employer after my injury legal?

Submitted By: Anonymous (Virginia Beach, Virginia)

I had a fall and broke my shoulder where surgical repair was needed. Upon informing my employer about this, my job duties were permanently changed and I received communication that certain accounts were no longer mine. This was several days after my injury.

I replied back to protest the change, stating the work I had done on those accounts. My employer wrote back that I must be on medication and to go on leave immediately. The next day my job was threatened by this employer, stating I must get back to a coworker immediately, who was asking for a written report.

This is only part of it, but is that legal to do, i.e. to force an employee out without firing them through intimidation?

I was threatened to go on Cobra several times at different intervals, and when I was finally placed on it during physician-approved leave, that was provided to the employer promptly, they denied firing me or stating I was laid off.

Can my employer remove my accounts and treat me like they did? Any perspective on this would be appreciated. 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 Anonymous,

The answer to your question depends on the nature of your employment and where your injury occurred.

Work-Related Injury

If the injury that required you to have shoulder surgery occurred at work and you filed a workers’ compensation claim, then Virginia law specifically prevents your employer from firing you for making that claim.

Section 65.2-308 of the Virginia statutes provides the following:

“A. No employer or person shall discharge an employee solely because the employee intends to file or has filed a claim under this title or has testified or is about to testify in any proceeding under this title. The discharge of a person who has filed a fraudulent claim is not a violation of this section.

B. The employee may bring an action in a circuit court having jurisdiction over the employer or person who allegedly discharged the employee in violation of this section. The court shall have jurisdiction, for cause shown, to restrain violations and order appropriate relief, including actual damages and attorney’s fees to successful claimants and the rehiring or reinstatement of the employee, with back pay plus interest at the judgment rate as provided in § 6.2-302.”

If your employer is treating you this way because you filed a worker’s compensation claim, then you should contact an attorney immediately to discuss your rights and options.

Non-Work Related Injury

If your injury wasn’t work-related, then you need to know a few things…

Virginia follows what’s known as the “At-will employment doctrine.” That doctrine establishes the general rule that an employee may be fired at any time, for any reason, or for no specific reason.

There are, however, some exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine that may apply to your situation:

  1. If you are working under an employment contract, then you are not considered an at-will employee, and your employer may have breached that employment contract in the way he’s treating you.
  2. Virginia law also recognizes a public-policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine for situations where the employer is discriminating against you based on a disability. If your job assignments, benefits, or employment status were impacted because of a disability related to your injury, then you may have a claim against your employer.

The Virginia Human Rights Act makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate in employment or promotion practices because of a disability. This law covers employers who have between six and fourteen employees.

Additionally, Virginia law requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations for the physical limitations faced by an otherwise qualified person.

Find out more about filing a claim here:

Keep an Eye on the Statute of Limitations

The Virginia Human Rights Act requires that you file a complaint in state court within three hundred days (300) of your wrongful discharge.  Virginia Statute. Ann. §2.2-3903(c)

Learn more here: Returning to Work 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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