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Can You Be Fired for Filing a Workers’Compensation Claim?

Workers have a right to look to the workers’ compensation system after getting injured or sick at work.

Can You Be Fired for Filing a Workers’Compensation Claim?

Workers have a right to look to the workers’ compensation system after getting injured or sick at work. California Labor Code section 3700 requires employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance for workers to file a claim for benefits. Yet, many workers are afraid they’ll get fired or threatened by their boss if they file a workers’ compensation claim.

We at SoCal Workers Comp want you to know that if you choose to file a workers’ compensation claim and face discrimination or termination because of it, our attorneys know how to help protect your rights and secure your compensation. If successful, you may be entitled to an additional 50% compensation and reinstatement to your job if you were fired.

Anti-Discrimination Remedies in Workers’ Compensation Laws

Workers’ compensation laws are found in the California Labor Code. The Labor Code has over 10,000 sections. But near the very beginning, section 132(a) states “It is the declared policy of this state that there should not be discrimination against workers who are injured in the course and scope of their employment.” What does the law mean by discrimination?

Prohibited Forms of Discrimination Due to Filing a Claim

Section 132(a) specifically prohibits an employer from acting against an employee on the sole basis of filing a claim for compensation in the following ways:

1. Firing

2. Threatening to fire

3. Any manner of discrimination

According to the decisions of the courts, “any manner of discrimination” includes workers who experienced:

  • Pay cuts
  • Demotions
  • Loss of seniority
  • Denial of a promotion
  • Loss of employment benefits
  • Denial of return to work after being medically released to return to work
  • Refusal to provide modified or alternative work due to disability
  • Reassignment to more burdensome work

This is not an exhaustive list. If you believe you have been discriminated against in some form because you filed a claim or because you are injured, you should discuss what happened with an attorney.

Section 132(a) Penalties for Employers who Discriminate Anyway

The law prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee on the sole basis that the employee sustained a work injury or illness. But many employers treat an injured employee differently anyway. If it happens to you, it can leave you feeling helpless. Asserting your rights with an attorney on your side to use section 132(a) can make your employer accountable to you for their illegal discrimination.

Section 132(a) criminalizes discrimination as a misdemeanor offense, but it also increases your workers’ compensation award. By law, your compensation shall increase by one-half, up to a maximum of $10,000, with costs and expenses up to $250.

The law also states you have the right to be reinstated and reimbursed for lost wages. If you wish to return to work for that employer, an attorney can help you assert that right.

To summarize, your section 132(a) remedies include:

  • Additional compensation up to $10,000
  • Costs and expenses up to $250
  • Reinstatement to your job
  • Lost wages

Additional compensation is not all the employer has to pay. In a workers’ compensation proceeding not involving discrimination, the employer is represented by an attorney paid for by the workers’ compensation insurance company. However, insurance does not ordinarily defend against section 132(a) discrimination claims. That means the employer will likely pay for another lawyer to defend the discrimination claim, as well as a criminal defense lawyer if the district attorney prosecutes for the misdemeanor offense.

Employers who discriminate against injured workers may find themselves paying a whole lot more than they expected.

Other Remedies in Fair Employment Laws

Labor Code section 132(a) is not the only state law that prohibits and punishes employers for discriminating against injured workers. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects workers who are disabled due to their work injury with additional remedies not available under section 132(a). FEHA offers all remedies generally available in civil actions. These may include:

  • Mental suffering resulting from discrimination (also known as pain and suffering)
  • Punitive damages (money fines that are intended to punish for bad conduct)
  • Attorney’s fees

You have the right to pursue all remedies available at law, so you do not have to choose one law or the other. An attorney can inform you of what laws apply to your case and help assert all your rights.

Protect Yourself with an Workers’ Compensation Attorney

The prospect of losing your job because you filed for workers compensation is frightening. You do not have to accept living with the injury or paying for its treatment on your own. An attorney from SoCal Workers Comp will help you pursue your claim with the fullest protection available under the law.

Contact an experienced professional at SoCal Workers Comp today. A consultation with us is free and our protection of your rights is priceless.

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If you suffered a work injury, you have rights, and deserve justice.  Let us handle it from here and bring you the justice you deserve.

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