An employee suffering an injury at work will likely miss time while receiving the necessary treatment and subsequently recovering from the accident. Many injured staff members may still be able to work with some limitations. Others with more severe injuries cannot come back at all. For instance, a worker with a brain injury that requires surgery may be out of work for months, if not longer.
If this happens, can a worker be replaced with someone else? Or would this be illegal on the grounds that the company is discriminating against an injured worker and firing them as a result of their workplace injury?
The realities of the business world do come into play
Generally speaking, employers should refrain from firing injured workers and may even be breaking the law if it appears the firing is the result of an employee who was seeking workers’ comp.
That said, the court has acknowledged that there are certain business realities that must be considered. If an employee is to be replaced, the employer may be required to show that this “conduct was necessitated by the realities of doing business.”
For example, if an employee is out for a week with a minor injury, they likely cannot be fired. If an employee is out for eight months with a back injury, however, the employer may need to temporarily replace them so that your business can continue to function. That type of hiring is not prohibited in that case.
A potentially complex situation
You can see how complicated this whole situation may become. Make sure you are well aware of your legal rights as you recover from injuries and explore various options if necessary.