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Terminating employee on workers’ compensation

I have an employee who got a workers’ comp claim and she wants to return to work. One of my other workers saw her taking pain pills from a client’s cabinet. Can I fire her for that reason or since she filed a claim I cannot?

Most employees have at-will employment with their employers. At-will employment generally means the employer can terminate the employment relationship at any time for any lawful reason. An employee cannot be terminated solely for filing a workers’ compensation claim. In fact, some states impose strict violations for employers who do so. However, an employee can be terminated for violating company policy including stealing from clients.

It’s important to address the theft allegation as soon as possible. Conduct a thorough investigation including interviewing witnesses and the alleged violator. Document the findings and subsequent employment action. If it’s decided to terminate the employee for theft make sure you’re willing and able to support the decision in court.

It appears the employee is currently out on workers’ comp and is ready to return to work. There are some concerning factors here. Are you, the employer, just being made aware of the theft now? If so, why did the accuser wait to inform you? Or, have you known about the allegation but are only taking action now that the employee is ready to return to work? The answers would be more concerning depending upon how long the employee has been on workers’ comp. Meaning, it would be concerning if the employee has been out for two months, is ready to return to work and suddenly is being investigated for theft. This shouldn’t deter you from taking appropriate corrective action; however, it’s something to keep in mind during the investigation.

An employee filing a workers’ comp claim doesn’t excuse them from poor performance or violations of company policy. Employers should investigate any performance issues and take appropriate action in accordance with company policy.


This entry was posted on Thursday, June 26th, 2014 at 1:48 pm and is filed under
Human Resources Management.
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