Can I quit my job while my workers’ compensation claim is open?
The short answer is yes. Your employment status does not alter your right to benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act for an injury that occurred while employed. If you quit your job before your claim is concluded, you will not disqualify yourself from benefits.
The issue, however, is a bit more complicated than the short answer suggests. Although leaving your job during the claim will not change your entitlement to medical benefits nor your right to a disability award at the conclusion of your claim, it certainly can have negative consequences along the way. For example, often during a workers’ compensation claim an injured worker is released to work with restrictions. This gives employers the opportunity to accommodate the work restrictions instead of paying weekly benefits. If this happens to you and you have already quit your job, your employer may (likely, will) claim that had you not quit, they would have accommodated your restrictions. Depending on how long you have been out of work, the employer may be able to immediately stop your weekly benefits, regardless of the veracity of their claim to accommodate restrictions.
If you are considering quitting your job before your claim is resolved, please contact your attorney before making that decision. We understand there are a host of reasons why you may be considering leaving your job, and the specific facts of your case will determine what the best decision is for you.
Can I be fired while on workers’ compensation? If I am fired, will I lose my workers’ comp benefits?
In South Carolina, you cannot be fired for bringing a workers’ compensation claim. You can, however, be fired while your claim is ongoing. Employees are sometimes terminated during their workers’ compensation claims, though I believe it to be far less frequent for employees who are represented by an attorney. For those who are fired during their case, employers are savvy enough to list the cause for termination as something other than their claim. If you are concerned you will be terminated during your case, discuss the issue with your attorney so the necessary steps can be taken to protect your rights. Your attorney may suggest you begin keeping detailed records of your interactions with supervisors, logging your time in a journal, and taking a host of other steps to protect you in the event your employer does something wrong.
If you are fired during your case, your right to workers’ compensation benefits survives. This is true regardless of the basis of your termination. You will continue to receive medical treatment; your right to an award for disability at the conclusion of your claim will be unaffected; and if you are out of work and receiving a weekly check, your check will continue. There can, however, be negative consequences on your case if you are fired. The example given above as to voluntary resignations prior to being released to work with restrictions would also apply to legal terminations.