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Is filing for New Jersey workers' comp benefits a job risk?

Hackensack employers may not fire workers for the wrong reasons -- reasons that violate an employee's rights. Job terminations due to filings for workers' comp benefits are one of those reasons. However, New Jersey workers' compensation claims do not immunize employees from being fired for legal reasons.

At-will employment rules allow employers to fire most Bergen County workers at any time with or without cause. The only workers not subject to at-will employment laws are employees with job contracts, outlining conditions under which terminations may take place. State laws forbid employers from retaliating against workers simply because employees sought benefits for job-related injuries or illnesses.

Retaliation doesn't have to be in the form of a wrongful dismissal. Employers may pressure workers who've filed or attempted to file workers' compensation claims by mistreating them in other ways, like harassment or discrimination. Those workplace practices aren't acceptable under state laws, either.

New Jersey companies provide workers' compensation insurance coverage to avoid being liable for workplace accidents or job-linked health conditions. Employers cannot be faulted in civil lawsuits, unless employee harm was intentional. In exchange for this legal pardon, workers with valid claims receive benefits to cover medical expenses, disabilities and wage losses.

An employer may give you the impression something bad will happen – a demotion, an unwanted transfer, a pay cut or a job loss -- if you file a workers' compensation claim. Some employees are so intimidated by this perceived threat or know so little about employment rights, the workers fail to meet claim filing deadlines and don't collect benefits they deserve.

If you aren't certain about your rights or whether a claim qualifies for benefits, it's advisable to discuss your situation with a workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible. Lawyers can help workers avoid situations like this, file claims in a timely manner and dispute unfair denials of medical treatment or benefits.

Source: NJ.com, "Can you be fired for filing a workers compensation claim?," Victoria Dalton, March. 08, 2015

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