If I work in an oilfield and had an accident on a golf cart, can be fired after I return from my injury leave?

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If I work in an oilfield and had an accident on a golf cart, can be fired after I return from my injury leave?

I was asked to check on equipment at our staging pad and was asked to take the golf cart because the battery had died and they wanted me to drive it a good distance after they jumped it to get it recharged. It was still dark out and lights were dim, which caused me to run off the path and roll cart. I landed on my left leg, breaking my left foot. I work for a fracking company and we have a contract with a big oil company. An accident like this can cause my company to lose its contract, so we kept it quiet from them. Now, 6 weeks later, though my company is taking care of the doctor’s bills, I feel jthat I just keep getting the runaround until I heal and then they are going to get rid of me. I feel that I kept them from losing their contract and saving a bunch of jobs; all I want in return is to go back to work when I heal. What are my options, if any?

Asked on October 11, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Texas

Answers:

B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You  need to keep any and all documentation of the incident and of them paying your doctor's bills.  Employers don't usually pay bills just to be nice and this may be your only evidence in the future that you had a workplace accident.

If they try to fire you, you have a couple of different options.  The first is to file a worker's comp retaliation claim.  An employer cannot fire you just because you filed notice of an injury.  Your second option (now or later) is to file for FMLA protection.  When most people think of FMLA, they usually think of women having babies and going out on leave.... but many employees actually use it in combination with worker's comp to protect their jobs while they are healing. Similarly, if you are going to have a perm injury, consider requesting an ADA accomodation.   A fourth possible option, is to file a complaint with OSHA or the Texas Worker's Compensation Commission since it appears their reporting practices are not in compliance.  You would then have what is called whistleblower protection. 

These are just some starting points.  The effectiveness of each will really depend on how they act going forward and how serious your injuries are.   It wouldn't hurt to arrange a consultation with an employment law attorney and let them review your employee handbook and the other documentation that you have.  You may have additional remedies or protections other than what the law generally provides.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You cannot be fired after returning from leave because you had an accident or because you used leave which the company approved you to take (or to which you were entitled to under law, such as under the Family and Medical Leave Act). However, you could be fired for independent reasons (such as a downsizing or restructuring, legitimate performance issues, etc.); if you exceeded the amount of leave you are allowed to take (in which case you would be fired for unauthorized absenteeism); or if you cannot, upon your return, do the job you were hired to do.

If you are fired and feel it's retaliation for having used leave or for having been injured on the job, speak with with an unemployment law attorney about your options.


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