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Can we fire someone who is costing us a fortune in workers’ comp claims?

by on
in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

Q. We have an employee in our manufacturing facility who has brought numerous workers’ compensation claims. This has cost us a lot of money. Do we have to continue to employ this person? His position involves a continued risk of physical injury.

A. Yes, unless you have lawful reasons to terminate him other than the fact that he has filed workers’ compensation claims. Under Minnesota law, an employer may not discharge or threaten to discharge an employee for seeking workers’ compensation benefits and may not in any manner intentionally obstruct the employee seeking benefits (see Minn. Stat. 176.82).

An employer that violates the law is liable for damages incurred by the employee, including any diminution in workers’ compensation benefits, as well as for the employee’s reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in a successful legal action.

In addition, an employer can be liable for punitive damages of up to three times the amount of any compensation benefit awarded to the employee.

Under the law, employers with at least 15 full-time employees are also prohibited from refusing to offer continued employment to an employee when employment is available within the employee’s physical limitations. An employer that violates this provision is—in addition to other payments provided under the workers’ compensation statutes—liable to the employee for one year’s wages, payable from the date of refusal to offer continued employment and at the same time and rate as the employee’s pre-injury rate, up to a maximum of $15,000.

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