Retaliation is Illegal: Don’t Let an Employer Prevent You From Obtaining Your Benefits.
If you’ve been injured on the job, being out of work even temporarily can be difficult and costly. Your physical pain is accompanied by lost wages and high medical bills. That is precisely the reason why New Mexico, like most other states, established a workers’ compensation system. Under the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Act, injured workers are entitled to apply for and receive benefits including wage replacement, medical treatment, and vocational rehabilitation.
One thing injured workers shouldn’t get when applying for benefits? Fired.
Sadly, many workers have found themselves on the receiving end of pink slips simply because they exercised their rights to seek workers compensation benefits. In New Mexico, most companies are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Like other kinds of insurance such as car or homeowners, the more claims are made and the more the insurer has to pay out, the higher the cost of the insurance. Accordingly, when employees file workers’ compensation claims, both employers and their insurers have a strong incentive to deny or minimize the benefits to be paid out.
Sometimes, this means that employers and insurers will fight the claim for benefits. Other times, however, they may seek to retaliate against the worker by firing them. Even if the workers’ comp claim was only part of the reason the employer decided to terminate the employee, it is against the law.
In New Mexico, It is Illegal to Retaliate Against Injured Employees For Seeking Benefits
In New Mexico, an employer may not discharge, threaten to discharge, or otherwise retaliate in the terms or conditions of employment against a worker for the sole reason that the employee seeks workers’ compensation benefits. Employers who engage in such conduct are not only subject to significant penalties imposed by the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administration, but retaliatory action can also be the basis for claims for damages by the effected worker.
Retaliation Goes Beyond Just Termination
In addition to termination, the following are some of the acts that can also constitute illegal discrimination if it is shown that the employer was motivated because of a worker’s exercise of their rights:
- Poor performance review
- Failure to promote
- Reduction of wages
- Intimidation in the workplace
- Threats of adverse action
- Negative reassignment, reclassification or transfer
- Unreasonable increase or decrease in job duties
- Unwarranted disciplinary action
Most employers know termination and other acts of retaliation are prohibited, so it’s the rare and foolish employer who will come right out and say that they are terminating or taking other adverse action against an employee because they pursued workers’ compensation benefits. Proving wrongful retaliation usually requires the help of a skilled workers’ compensation lawyer with experience handling retaliation claims.
In asserting that they have been wrongfully terminated or discriminated against, an employee will have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the discharge or adverse action was due to intentional discrimination based on his filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
You Have Rights and Remedies
If you believe that you have suffered retaliation of any kind at the hands of a current or former employer because you exercised your legal rights to obtain workers’ compensation benefits, you may be entitled to reinstatement, back pay, benefits, recovery of your attorneys’ fees, and in some cases even punitive damages.
The law doesn’t take workers’ compensation retaliation lightly. Neither should you. Consult with an experienced attorney to understand your rights and explore your options.