A reader asks: “Can new jobs refuse to hire me just for filing a workers’ comp claim? A friend says if I file, when I go to look for work again it’ll show up on my background check that I sued my former employer. And then they can refuse to give me the job without telling me that this is the reason why.”
First, reader, we hope that your injuries are healing and that you’re able to find another position that is suitable for you. In general, no, new jobs cannot refuse to hire you because of a previous workers’ compensation claim. However, your workers’ comp history may be visible to new employers after they make a job offer. Keep reading to understand what this means for you below.
Does Workers’ Comp Show Up on Background Checks?
Your workers’ comp history will not automatically show up on a background check. But it is possible for a potential employer to search your workers’ comp history in some cases.
Here’s the caveat: A company can only do this once they’ve extended a bona fide or “real” job offer.
This is a limitation under the ADA, or the Americans with Disabilities Act. Here are the only times when new jobs you apply for can see your workers’ comp history:
- The reason for the search must be job-related. Potential employers must have the same health-related requirements for all candidates, not just you. Examples might include air traffic controllers, police officers, or pilots.
- It must occur as the final step when extending you a job offer. In other words, you fulfilled all other job requirements for that position from this particular employer. These might include things like a background or credit check, drug screening, etc.
Furthermore, each state’s individual laws determine how these regulations apply to local job candidates. So, the laws in Mississippi might be quite different than the laws that apply in Kansas. Still, the overriding rule is that new jobs must make you an actual offer before a potential employer can search your history.
New Jobs Cannot See Your Workers’ Comp History Before Hiring You
The ADA states that an employer “may not inquire into an applicant’s workers’ compensation history before making a conditional offer of employment.”
And if an employer conducts this type of inquiry for one person, then it has to apply to everyone in that same job category.
But once new jobs offer to hire you, they cannot require a medical exam simply because they heard about your past workers’ comp case. They also cannot use your workers’ comp history to decide whether or not to hire you.
Is It Legal for New Jobs to Ask About Your Workers’ Comp History?
It is illegal for a potential employer to ask you about your workers’ comp claim history during interviews. And again, the only time this issue should come up is when new jobs have strict health requirements for all candidates. It’s also illegal to ask for that in your background check unless they ask every other qualified applicant.
This doesn’t mean that a potential employer can’t ask important questions related to job performance. For instance, new jobs can ask if you can perform the duties required for this position. They can also ask for clarification on information they legally acquired through a background check, such as:
- Your credit history
- Criminal background/arrest records, if applicable
- Driving records
They can also ask basic questions that fit into the scope of the job, as long as they do not violate state or federal law. For example, a business close to an elementary school can ask if an applicant is a registered sex offender. A potential employer located 20 miles away cannot ask that same question in good faith. Most people also wouldn’t want someone with multiple DUIs or high-speed crashes driving a school bus.
And once you’re hired, federal laws protect any sensitive information in your background check. So if your new employer shares that they investigated your workers’ compensation history, they can be held in violation of the law.
How to Get Free Expert Help With Workers’ Comp Issues
The bottom line, reader, is that you shouldn’t be afraid to apply for new jobs because of your workers’ comp history.
And if your current employer threatens to fire you for filing a worker’s comp claim, talk to an attorney. All workers’ comp lawyers offer free, private consultations. If they cannot help you with your issue, then you pay $0 for expert legal assistance. And if you do win a cash settlement, then you’ll only pay one small fee afterwards.
Want to speak with a local workers’ comp expert about your problem? Click the button below to start your free online benefits quiz and see if you may qualify:
Lisa Allen is a writer and editor who lives in suburban Kansas City. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, both from the Solstice Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. Prior to becoming a writer, Lisa worked as a paralegal, where she specialized in real estate in and around Chicago.