If you face negative employment consequences for filing a workers’ compensation claim in California, you can file a legal claim against your employer.
The California workers’ compensation system is designed to ensure that injured workers get the benefits that they need to heal and (when possible) get back to work. This no-fault system of insurance offers a range of benefits, including medical treatment, disability payments, and job displacement benefits, to those workers who have been hurt or developed an occupational illness. But what happens if your employer retaliates against you for filing a workers’ comp claim?
Under California law, this type of action is illegal. California employees have a constitutional right to file a claim for a workplace injury or illness. If an employer retaliates against an employee for exercising that right — such as by firing that employee or demoting them — then the employee can file a claim under Section 132a of the California Labor Code. A seasoned California workers’ comp attorney can help with the process.
Under Section 132a, an employer who discharges, threatens to discharge or discriminates against an employee in any way because they have filed or made known of their intention to file a workers’ comp claim is guilty of a misdemeanor offense. By filing a 132a claim, an employee may be able to recover up to $10,000 in compensation, costs and expenses of up to $250, reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits, and be reinstated in their job.
In a 132a claim, compensation means a permanent disability award. An injured worker who receives an award for permanent disability will be entitled to up to half of the total value of that award, up to a maximum of $10,000, if their employer retaliated against them for filing a workers’ comp claim.
Although employers are permitted to make business decisions that affect all employees, they cannot treat one worker differently because that person filed a workers’ compensation claim. For example, if an employer decides to lay off a portion of its workforce due to COVID-19, and the worker who happened to file a claim is included in the layoffs, that may not be considered a retaliatory action. However, if that same employer only fires the employee who filed a workers’ comp claim, they may have violated the law.
To file a 132a workers’ compensation discrimination claim, an injured worker must first file a petition with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. A 132a petition must be filed within a year of the retaliatory action, and can only be filed if the employee has already filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
Beyond 132a claims, a worker who is fired for filing a workers’ comp claim may also file a complaint for wrongful termination, as it is against public policy to terminate employees who seek to exercise their constitutional rights. This type of action must be filed separately from a 132a petition. If you have been the victim of this type of retaliation, a California workers’ comp attorney can help you file a 132a petition and/or a wrongful termination lawsuit.
The law firm of PLBSH is devoted to helping Californians who have experienced all types of discriminatory and retaliatory behavior. Contact us today at (800) 435-7542 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation with a member of our team.