In many cases, an employer is permitted to terminate you even if you are on workers' compensation. However, even if you are terminated due to "performance," the work' comp. insurer may be responsible for paying you wage loss benefits if you have restrictions. You should consider speaking with a workers' compensation attorney.
Under Minnesota law, an employer can terminate an employee who is receiving workers’ compensation benefits for legitimate, lawful reasons (such as performance).
The employer, however, cannot terminate the employee because the individual filed a workers’ compensation claim, or in order to interfere with the employee’s receipt of workers’ compensation benefits. Finally, the employer generally has an obligation to provide to the employee any work available within the employee’s physical limitations, unless the employer has “reasonable cause.” Conceivably, reasonable cause may include situations when the employer has independent grounds for terminating the worker.
Minn. Stat. 176.82, subd. 1 provides that any person discharging or threatening to discharge an employee for seeking workers' compensation benefits or in any manner intentionally obstructing an employee seeking workers' compensation benefits is liable in a civil action for damages incurred by the employee including any diminution in workers' compensation benefits including costs and reasonable attorney fees, and for punitive damages not to exceed three times the amount of any compensation benefit to which the employee is entitled.
Minn. Stat. 176.82, subd. 2 provides that an employer who, without reasonable cause, refuses to offer continued employment to an employee receiving workers’ compensation benefits when employment is available within the employee's physical limitations shall be liable in a civil action for one year's wages, up to $15,000. This section does not apply to employers who employ 15 or fewer full-time equivalent employees.
The real question in your case is why the employer terminated you. Even though the employer claims you were terminated for poor performance, it is possible that the employer was actually retaliating against you for filing the workers’ compensation claim. If so, the employer’s explanation would be considered “pretextual.”
You should assess whether you can prove that the employer’s explanation is false. You may wish to request, in writing, a copy of your personnel files pursuant to Minnesota law so that you can review any written warnings and performance evaluations.
Our law firm offers a free initial consultation (up to 30 minutes) in wrongful termination cases. We represent both employees and employers.
Craig W. Trepanier, Esq.
Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
Trepanier & MacGillis P.A.
This posting is not intended as legal advice, does not create an attorney-client relationship, should not be relied upon due to the limited facts and space available, and is not a substitute for individual legal advice from your own attorney after a full consultation.