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

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In California, employees are legally entitled to financial compensation if they suffer occupational injuries or illnesses. The workers’ compensation program in California gives injured workers no-fault benefits for their medical bills and lost wages if their injuries occurred on the job.

One of the most important protections of the workers’ compensation system is that employers cannot retaliate against workers who file claims. It is illegal for an employer in California to fire an employee just for filing a workers’ comp claim. It is possible, however, for an employer to fire an injured employee for other reasons.

What Is Retaliation?

Retaliation is the legal term for an employer subjecting an employee to adverse employment actions for a protected activity, such as reporting a workplace hazard to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or filing a workers’ comp claim. Retaliation is against the law in California. An employer cannot punish a worker for a protected activity through means of firing, demoting, reassigning or cutting the pay of that worker.

Retaliation, Lawful Termination and Discrimination

It is against the law to retaliate against a worker for filing a workers’ compensation claim by firing that worker. Filing a workers’ compensation insurance claim is a protected activity by law in California. Terminating an employee specifically because he or she filed a claim is an unlawful form of retaliation against the worker.

It is legal, however, for an employer in California to fire a worker for the inability to perform the essential tasks of his or her job after an accident. California is an at-will employment state, meaning employers can fire employees with or without a reason. Even if the injury or illness occurred at work, a worker can lose his or her job if the injury prevents the employee from being able to work. An employer has the right to fire the worker if he or she cannot work while in recovery.

Note that if your workplace accident gave you a disability, your employer must offer reasonable accommodations so you can complete your job, according to the Americans With Disabilities Act. If you can continue working with reasonable accommodations for your disability, it will be against the law for your employer to fire you. Doing so would qualify as discrimination based on your disability.

Can You Get Fired With an Open Workers’ Comp Claim?

Yes, your employer can fire you with an open workers’ compensation claim. This may give you more evidence, however, for a retaliation claim. Letting you go so quickly, just days after you file a workers’ comp claim, can serve as proof that your employer did it because you filed the claim. Since you may not yet know how the injury will impact your ability to work in the future, your boss may not be able to use this as a reason to validate the termination.

How to Prove Retaliation

If you were injured at work in California, filed a workers’ compensation claim and lost your job, you may be the victim of retaliation. To prove a retaliation claim, your attorney will need to show that your employer took an illegal adverse action against you in direct response to you filing a workers’ compensation claim. Proof could come in the form of evidence such as:

  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Employment records
  • Medical records
  • Your workers’ comp claim
  • An investigation of the employer
  • Hired experts
  • Proof of your losses

Your lawyer will need to demonstrate that the job termination was directly related to you filing a workers’ comp claim and not the inability to do your job. Hiring an Orange County workers’ comp lawyer can help you prove your case and present evidence of wrongful termination. Your lawyer can help you negotiate for fair compensation for your lost wages and other damages, as well. Speak to an attorney near you today for more information.

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