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New Study Shows Injured Workers Are More Likely to Be Fired

March 24, 2016 Workers Compensation Retaliation

What employees need to know about workers’ compensation retaliation

As if getting injured on the job weren’t bad enough, there’s new information that shows it could actually affect your job stability.

Researchers at Harvard University have recently found that people who are injured on the job may be twice as likely to be fired within the following six months.

All of this is despite the fact that most states have regulations in place to protect employees from retaliation after filing workers’ comp claims. The study authors note that some employers may not comply with these laws.

The upshot: If you’re injured on the job, it’s critical to know your rights regarding workers’ compensation.

Let’s take a closer look at the Harvard study and then discuss what workers need to know.

Who is Most at Risk

Researchers at Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston examined the impact of workplace injuries on employees.

Their findings revealed several trends:

  • Employees who were injured on the job were more than twice as likely to be fired within six months compared to coworkers who had not been injured
  • Workers who suffered multiple injuries were more than twice as likely to quit their jobs compared other workers
  • Injuries were more likely to occur during a staffer’s first few months of employment

The researchers noted that these trends created a cycle that promoted increased turnover and increased risk of injuries. That is, newer workers were more likely to be injured, which meant that they are more likely to be fired, which created vacancies to be filled by other new workers … and on and on.

While the Harvard study focused on nursing home employees, the results may have wider implications that apply to workers in a variety of different industries.

What is Workers’ Compensation Retaliation?

Workers’ compensation retaliation can occur in several ways.

The most obvious is when an employer penalizes an employee after he or she has filed a workers’ comp claim. For example, the injured staffer may be fired, demoted, or be treated unfairly in some other way.

However, retaliation may sometimes be more subtle. For example, an employer may attempt to interfere with the workers’ compensation process, or try to persuade the worker (either directly or indirectly) not to file a claim.

Often, workers’ compensation retaliation occurs because companies want to avoid paying the costs associated with a work injury. They may also intend to “make an example” of one employee in order to deter other workers from filing workers’ comp claims.

In those cases, employees may end up working while injured, which could increase their risks of additional injuries. Their injuries may also impact their job performance, which could serve as another prompt for termination.

In Pennsylvania, an at-will employment state, workers may generally be fired at any time for any reason that is not illegal, or even for no reason at all.

However, the law does put forth some exceptions to the at-will doctrine. One of those is that terminating workers for filing workers’ compensation claims violates the Pennsyvlania Workers’ Compensation Act (as decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Shick v. Shirley).

What to Do

If you believe that you’ve been retaliated against for filing or intending to file a workers’ compensation claim, it’s wise to seek legal advice as soon as possible.

Email us at, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.