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Workplace Retaliation Laws & Workers’ Compensation

The majority of U.S. workers with full-time jobs are covered by workers’ compensation insurance, meaning that if you are injured on the job, your injury will be covered by your employer’s insurance company at minimal cost to you. However, some employers will punish employees for filing a claim, either by firing or some other negative event. While doing so is illegal, many employees are not in a position to fight back. If this has happened to you, understanding workplace retaliation laws can help you obtain a fair result.

Workplace Retaliation Laws in South Carolina

South Carolina’s Code of Laws, Sec. 41-1-80, explicitly prohibits retaliatory actions from employers based on workers’ compensation proceedings. However, this does not stop some employers who think they can manage to portray the workplace retaliation as an isolated incident, or as the culmination of a chain of poor behavior. Firing or otherwise acting against someone who is in workers’ compensation proceedings is not illegal, however, if it can be proven that the negative action has no connection to the proceedings. For example, if someone was caught using illegal drugs at work, that person would be terminated due to violating the code of conduct (and, obviously, state and/or federal law).

An employee who files a justified workers’ compensation claim is entitled to be treated by the employer’s insurance provider, with very rare exceptions. It is important to note that regulating that medical care, such as requiring that you see a certain medical professional or setting a dollar limit, is generally held to be acceptable and not retaliatory in nature unless the restrictions are extreme.

If You Experience Retaliation in the Workplace

If you believe that you have been disciplined unfairly, you have potential recourse via the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC). Your complaint must be filed within 180 days of the retaliatory action from your employer. The deadline is fairly strict. If missed, the issue will likely not be investigated. The rationale is that after that period of time, memories begin to fade, which increases the likelihood of cases where one party’s word is pitted against the other.

There is a broad class of protected activities, under both state and federal law that a worker is entitled to perform without fear of reprisal. Filing for workers’ compensation is one of them, with others including taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), reporting unlawful activity on your employer’s part, and participating in investigations of issues such as wage discrepancies or denied overtime. If you can show that the negative action against you—be it termination, or something lesser like demotion—has a nexus to the time and manner where you filed your workers’ compensation claim, you likely have a good claim of retaliation.

A South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Help

When you have cause to file for workers’ compensation, you are likely in a position where you are in a great deal of pain and experiencing mental distress. Having your employer move against you at a time like this only makes it worse. Consulting a dedicated Charleston employment discrimination attorney can help. Attorney Christopher A. Potts has been practicing in this field for many years and is happy to meet with you to discuss your options.

Contact us today to set up an initial appointment.

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