07 Nov In Arizona, Can I be Fired if I Have a Work-Related Injury or Illness?
Arizona is a work-at-will state, meaning that your employer can also fire you at will for any reason, or no reason. The only time an Arizona employer cannot fire you is if it was done just because you filed a claim for your injury or work-related illness.
There is only one employment status whereby an employer cannot fire you, and that is if you have a contract with the employer stating the starting and ending dates of your employment. Before you sign that contract, make sure that there is a statement included that you cannot be fired when you are collecting workers’ compensation.
How to Protect Yourself if Fired
If your employer conducts regular reviews of your work and you can show that you have been a good employee because you have copies of the assessments, along with minimal sick days used, these documents would be evidence to present showing you were a model employee.
If the firing occurred after you got injured or ill from a work-related event, the judge could decide that the firing by your employer was based solely on your claim for workers’ compensation. A case such as this would fall under the wrongful termination claim, protected by Arizona Revised Statute § 12-541.
Or, if you are disabled because of a workplace accident or illness, but can still work a portion of your job when accommodations are made for your situation, or be put on light office duty, getting fired by your employer at this time can fall under the discrimination category for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
For either situation, you only have one year in Arizona to file the claim against your employer. Your workers’ compensation claim is still active until you reach full health or have recovered as far as you are able to.
Each case has special circumstance related to the individual worker and the uniqueness of the accident or illness. But if you feel you have been wrongly terminated, consult immediately with a workers’ compensation attorney or with a labor attorney to assess your rights and whether you have a case.
Hearing Loss Case
A recent case was finalized when a Louisiana worker who lost his hearing while on the job as a pressure washing foreman and was fired, received an award of $90,000 by the court. The case showed that the company, Tamco Professional Coating Services in Houma, LA, fired Filemon Saldana after he filed for workers’ compensation for his hearing loss. The complaint by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Saldana was filed under the ADA of 1990 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, stating that Saldana was fired because of his disability.
Furthermore, when Tamco heard about the workers’ compensation claim, Saldana was admonished for having spoken to an attorney about his hearing loss and whether he could file a workers’ compensation claim. The complaint charged that Tamco was, allegedly, more concerned about the rise in insurances costs because of the new claim. When those fees did rise, Saldana was fired.
Tamco had never requested any personnel, including Saldana, wear personal protective equipment (PPE), and no other employees had ever been fired because of failure to wear their PPE. The original claim can be read here.
If you are requested by your employer to wear protective gear during your work duties, then wear it. If you do not do so, you can be violating the terms of how you can safely work at your job. These regulations are also covered by OSHA, meaning you can be violating federal safety laws.
If you need help with your workers’ compensation claim, call us at once for a consultation. 602-346-9009.