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Workers’ compensation is one of your rights as an employee in California. The workers’ compensation program is a no-fault recovery system in which you could receive payment for your medical bills and partial lost wages without needing to prove someone else’s negligence. Almost every worker in California is eligible for workers’ comp. If you choose to exercise your right to bring a claim after a workplace injury, you should not face any negative repercussions for doing so. It is against the law for an employer to fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Retaliation is the legal term for taking adverse employment action against an employee for exercising his or her legal rights. An employer may retaliate against an employee for reporting a safety violation to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, for example, or for reporting sexual harassment. Retaliation is an illegal form of punishment against an employee. It can involve many different adverse employment actions taken for the wrong reasons.
Retaliation can also involve non-employment decisions that still punish the employee, such as isolation from work activities, harassment, discrimination and offensive remarks. It is against multiple California laws for an employer to retaliate against an employee in any manner for filing a workers’ compensation claim. If your job duties drastically changed for the worse after filing a claim, speak to a lawyer about a potential retaliation suit.
Retaliation for filing a workers’ comp claim is not the same as losing your job due to the inability to complete its essential functions. If your boss fires you because he or she takes your workers’ compensation claim personally, it is wrongful termination. If you lose your job due to an accident that injures you so severely and permanently that you can no longer do your job (even with reasonable accommodations), this may not be retaliation.
Your employer has the right to let you go for any or no reason under the state’s at-will employment laws. No law requires your employer to hold your job while you are in medical treatment. The exception is if you had an employment contract stating otherwise. If you are no longer able to perform the essential functions of your job, your employer may offer light-duty work or a different position. If not, however, you may face job termination. While you may not have a wrongful termination suit, you may qualify for disability benefits through the Social Security system and/or a workers’ compensation claim if you lose your job this way.
If you could perform your job duties after a workplace injury, but your employer fired you once you filed a workers’ compensation claim anyway, you may have a case for wrongful termination. In California, you can bring a civil lawsuit against an employer for wrongful termination in the pursuit of damages. You must file your suit within two years after the date of your termination for a valid claim.
Before you bring a civil lawsuit, find out if you qualify for other remedies such as mediation with your employer. Pre-trial negotiations may result in getting your job back and other damages. If your employer refuses to treat your case fairly, however, or if your lawyer believes a lawsuit will lead to better results, you may need to proceed to court in San Bernardino County.
If your lawyer can prove your boss let you go out of spite for filing the workers’ comp claim, you may receive benefits such as job reinstatement, compensation for lost wages, job promotion and additional money in penalties against the employer. This could include punitive damages, meant to punish the employer for retaliation. Contact a San Bernardino worker’s compensation attorney to find out if you have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit.