Getting hurt on the job is no laughing matter. One slip and fall or improperly functioning machine can leave you with debilitating injuries that affect your ability to work. Most states make it illegal to fire a worker who suffered a workplace injury and filed a workers’ compensation claim. New Mexico is one of those states. Just because employers are not supposed to fire injured employees does not mean they cannot look for excuses to terminate. Workers who suspect they were fired because of pending litigation or workers’ compensation claims against their employer should contact an attorney skilled in workers’ compensation law immediately to ensure the protection of their rights.
What is employer retaliation?
Employers in New Mexico cannot retaliate against injured employees who seek benefits. Retaliation is defined by New Mexico rules and statutes as discharging, threatening to discharge, or engaging in other threatening or punitive behavior. Retaliation goes beyond termination in New Mexico. Other acts that fall into the realm of illegal discrimination when motivated by a worker engaging in their rights include:
- Demoting employees to a less senior position within the company.
- Issuing poor performance reviews.
- Passing the employee over for promotions.
- Reducing wages.
- Undesirable reassignments, reclassifications, or transfers.
- Unnecessary disciplinary action.
- Unreasonable decrease or increase in assigned job duties.
Any acts of intimidation fall under the legal definition of employer retaliation. If you suspect you have become a target because of a pending workers’ compensation claim or personal injury lawsuit, reach out to your attorney immediately.
Why do employers retaliate?
Employers may be tempted to retaliate when employees file workers’ compensation claims because it impacts their bottom line. The more worker’s compensation claims filed the higher the employer’s insurance premiums rise. How do you know when an employer is striking back?
If an employee’s supervisors are angry over a workers’ compensation filing, they may take actions that seem punitive. That is one sign of retaliation. Another surefire indicator of retaliation is if an employer begins treating an employee differently after they file their claim. Lastly, the timing of changes in behavior toward an employee is the most telling hint of an employer hitting back.
How do you prove employer retaliation?
Some employers engage in retaliatory behavior because they know it can be difficult to prove. Very few employers who willfully violate the law readily admit to it because they know there are steep penalties when caught. When a company goes so far as to terminate an employee, a skilled workers’ compensation attorney must prove the following three things:
- The employee engaged in a protected activity (filing a workers’ compensation claim).
- The employee was fired after or during the same time the activity occurred.
- A causal link between the protected activity and the loss of the employee’s job.
Most courts rule in favor of employees when workers’ compensation claims and firings occur within the same time or with close temporal proximity.
Reporting workers’ compensation retaliation
When you report suspected retaliation for workers’ compensation claims to your attorney, he or she may suggest reporting the violation to the State of New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administration. Your attorney may additionally suggest filing a lawsuit against your employer for violation of employment law, in addition to any personal injury claims resulting from the workplace incident. When employees can prove retaliatory behavior from employers, it increases the likelihood of punitive damages from the courts.
What to do next
If you suspect you were fired illegally, talk to the experienced workers’ compensation lawyers at Cameron and Russell. Attorney Bill Russell works hard to protect workers’ rights and has the experience and skills to successfully navigate a suspected retaliatory firing. To schedule your free consultation, call 505-218-7844 or contact us online.