Can I Terminate an Employee Who Doesn’t Return After Being Injured?
Question: I had an employee hurt on the job resulting in a worker’s compensation situation. I have not heard from him since the injury and want to terminate his employment for work abandonment. What is the best way to effect this termination and also cover myself legally? Also, up to what point after the injury am I liable for paying him worker’s compensation? I was prepared to give him limited work when the doctor cleared him for limited work, but that was about the time he became unreachable.
Answer: First, you should check with your insurance carrier to see if they have been in contact with the employee; perhaps there is some reason why he has been out of touch. Also, you want to be sure the insurance company knows he has been released to return to work. But assuming no good reason is known for his lack of communication, send him a letter by overnight delivery (people never refuse overnight deliveries but they often ignore certified mail!) stating that you understand he has been released for work and that he must contact you about when he will return or you will assume he has resigned. Then, if he fails to respond, and assuming the first letter has in fact been delivered, you can follow up with a second letter notifying him that he is deemed to have resigned. Again, make sure you keep the workers comp carrier in the loop.
This response is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion, nor is this column a substitute for formal legal assistance. For help with particular legal needs, members are invited to consult with Brooke Duncan III of Adams and Reese LLP. Mr. Duncan can be reached at
504-585-0220 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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