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Can I protect myself from being fired after an injury at work?

What should you do when you suffer a workplace injury? You may feel concerned about the potential for wrongful termination because you injured yourself -- and so you may not have taken any action at all. Instead of allowing yourself to be victimized by your California employer, take these steps to protect your legal rights and secure your spot in the workplace.

What should my first steps be after an injury? The most important element of workplace injury treatment is getting immediate help. If you are involved in an emergency, call 911 for assistance. Otherwise, your workplace may offer an occupational health program that allows you to receive treatment at a specified clinic. Identifying the problem and receiving treatment immediately can help you build the credibility you need to fight against being fired because of a workers' compensation claim. Be sure that you also promptly report the injury to your employer -- if you choose not to notify your company within 30 days, you could lose your right to workers' compensation benefits.

Am I even eligible for benefits? You might have failed to notify your employer because you are afraid of wrongful termination because you are a part-time employee. The good news is that even part-time and temporary workers can be eligible for workers' compensation funds, depending on the nature of the injury and the employer. You should never assume that you will not be eligible -- it always pays to ask. Further, you are probably eligible for benefits even if you are not a legal resident of the U.S., as these rights extend to every person in American workplaces.

Should I seek help with my workplace injury claim? If you are afraid that you could be subject to wrongful termination or retaliation because of your workplace injury, an attorney can be a valuable ally. You should not have to live with the anxiety associated with the potential for being unfairly fired; instead, take action and seek the help of a qualified lawyer to provide you with the information you need to make the best decision for yourself and your family.

Source: State of California Department of Industrial Relations, "I was injured at work," accessed Sep. 22, 2015

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