Many workers in Los Angeles are in dangerous jobs, like warehouse work, construction, and manufacturing. When an employee is injured on the job, workers’ compensation insurance is supposed to step in and provide medical care and wage replacement. Unfortunately for employees, some employers try and punish workers for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Under California labor laws, an employer cannot retaliate against a worker for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
The employment attorneys at Sirmabekian Law Firm help employees after labor law violations. We know the tactics that employers try to use to punish workers for asserting their rights. We will use our experience and the law to resolve your workers’ compensation retaliation claim. You deserve to be compensated after a workplace injury and not to lose your job because of an employer who values profit over the law.
To get a better idea of your rights and options after workers’ compensation retaliation in Los Angeles, we provide some answers to common questions, like:
- What are workers' compensation rights?
- What is workers' compensation retaliation?
- How does California labor law protect workers from workers' compensation retaliation?
- How do I know if my employer is retaliating for a workers' compensation claim?
- Do you need an employment attorney to file a workers' compensation claim retaliation claim in Los Angeles?
This page provides an overview of workers’ compensation retaliation in L.A. and links to other relevant employment law topics. If you still have questions after reviewing these pages, contact our office to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides benefits to workers who are injured on the job. Workers’ compensation coverage is mandatory for all employers in California. Workers’ compensation covers work-related illnesses and injuries, including:
- One-time events, like a slip and fall, or
- Ongoing exposure, like repetitive motion injuries over a number of years.
Workers’ compensation is “no-fault” protection. Under workers’ compensation laws, an employee does not need to show the employer was negligent in causing the injury or illness. However, as a trade-off, an employee generally cannot file a personal injury claim against the employer, and compensation after a workplace injury is generally limited. Workers’ compensation benefits include:
- Medical coverage related to the injury;
- Temporary disability benefits until the employee recovers;
- Permanent disability benefits if the employee does not completely recover;
- Supplemental job displacement benefits for retraining; and
- Death benefits if the worker dies from a job-related injury or illness.
Workers’ compensation laws require the injured worker to report the injury or illness to a supervisor. The employee should then seek medical treatment. The injured employee should then fill out a workers’ compensation claim form to begin the claims process. Workers’ compensation should then provide benefits until the employee is recovered enough to return to employment.
Unfortunately for workers, some employers may try and retaliate against an employee who files a legitimate workers’ compensation claim. An employer may try and threaten an employee not to file a workers’ compensation claim or not to challenge a denial of benefits. Retaliating against a worker for filing or seeking to file a workers’ comp claim is illegal in California.
An employer may not want the employee to file a workers’ compensation claim because it may increase their insurance premiums, it may encourage other threatened workers to come forward with their own claims, or it may expose the employer to a number of other safety and labor law violations. This is not uncommon with employers in manufacturing, the clothing industry, warehouse work, and construction.
Under California Labor Code 132a, “there should not be discrimination against workers who are injured in the course and scope of their employment.” Violations of Labor Code 132a are even subject to criminal penalties for the employer or insurer.
If an employee has filed or has made it known they intend to file a claim for compensation, or after an employee has received a workers’ compensation-related award or settlement, it is against the law for any employer to:
- Discharge or fire,
- Threaten the employee with discharge, or
- In any manner, discriminate against an employee.
The law also protects other workers who participate in workers’ compensation claims by other workers, including testifying in another separate employee’s case before a workers’ compensation appeals board.
For example, Maria and Elizabeth work for a clothing manufacturer in the Garment District in Downtown LA. The stairs are often crowded with stacked-up boxes. One day while Maria and Elizabeth are coming up the stairs from their lunch break, Elizabeth trips over a box and falls down the stairs, injuring her back. Elizabeth goes to the hospital for treatment and files a workers’ compensation claim.
Maria is later asked to testify in a hearing to say what she witnessed during the accident. Maria’s employer tells her if she goes to testify she may find herself out of a job. This may be an example of workers’ compensation retaliation against Maria for cooperating with another employee’s workers’ compensation claim.
OTHER FORMS OF RETALIATION FOR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CLAIMS
Retaliation for workers’ compensation claims is not just limited to getting fired or demoted. Other forms of retaliation may include:
- Transferring a worker to a less desirable position,
- Verbally abusing the worker,
- Making the worker’s job more difficult, or
- Threatening to report a worker’s family member to immigration or the police.
Workers’ compensation retaliation laws protect employees when the employer violates California labor laws. The employer who violates the law may be subject to a misdemeanor criminal charge. The employee may be eligible to receive:
- Increased worker’s compensation by one-half, up to $10,000;
- Costs and expenses up to $250;
- Reinstatement of the job; and
- Reimbursement for lost wages and lost work benefits caused by the employer’s actions.
Retaliation does not always have to be as obvious. The employer does not necessarily have to explicitly say that the employee will be fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim. If an employee filed a workers’ compensation claim and the employer suddenly said the employee had performance problems, that may just be an attempt to cover up the retaliation.
For example, Daniel had been working as a forklift driver at a warehouse in San Pedro. When loading a pallet, the forklift tipped over, pinning Daniel’s arm underneath, causing serious damage. Daniel filed a workers’ compensation claim and then got a notice from the employer that he was being fired for showing up late to work twice over the past year. Even though an employer can fire an employee for showing up late (or for no reason at all), this may just be a pretext for workers’ compensation retaliation.
Your LA labor law attorney can investigate these cases to show that the employer was really firing the employee because of a workers’ compensation claim and not because of performance problems.
If your employer threatens to retaliate if you choose to file for a workers’ compensation claim or you are fired after filing a workers’ compensation claim, your employer may be violating your rights. Do not just give in to the threats. If your employer is threatening you, they may be threatening other workers too. You have a right to workers’ compensation for job-related injuries or illnesses.
There is limited time to file a workers’ compensation retaliation claim. Generally, a claim has to be filed within a year of the discriminatory act or date of wrongful termination. Talk to your L.A. workers’ compensation retaliation lawyer to understand your rights and options against illegal treatment. Your attorney can file a claim on your behalf with the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB). This may include a claim for increased compensation, reinstatement, and reimbursement of expenses.
Contact Sirmabekian Law Firm online or at 818-473-5003 to schedule an appointment to speak with an attorney who has the skills and experience to help make sure you get the best outcome for your workers’ compensation retaliation case. An initial consultation will not cost you anything and you will be able to get an idea about your rights and options to move forward with your labor claim.
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