Can My Employer Fire Me For Reporting An Injury Covered By Workers’ Compensation?
California workers’ compensation law protects you if you are injured in the course or scope of your employment. Under workers’ compensation, your employer has to pay certain medical and wage replacement benefits regardless of cause or fault for the accident. But your employer does have the right to dispute the nature and extent of your injuries.
What your employer cannot do, however, is punish you for reporting an injury that may be covered by workers’ compensation. This is known as retaliation, and it is against the law. Retaliation can take many forms, so it is important to understand your rights throughout the workers’ compensation process.
Your Right to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Obviously, if you are injured at work, your first priority is to seek medical treatment. In emergency cases you should not hesitate to go the nearest medical facility. In non-emergency cases, your employer–or its workers’ compensation insurance company–will have a list of approved medical providers.
After seeking treatment, your next priority is to report your injury to your employer. This is a crucial step. If you do not give your employer written notice of an injury within 30 days, you may be denied workers’ compensation benefits.
Once you report an injury, your employer will normally give you a California workers’ compensation claim form within one business day. Even if your employer believes that your injury is fake, exaggerated, or not work-related, it cannot take any retaliatory action against you simply for requesting a claim form. Again, there is a legal process in place for an employer to dispute or deny a workers’ compensation claim. The employer should never resort to threats or punishment to discourage you from exercising your rights in this area.
What is Considered Illegal Retaliation?
The California Labor Code at section 132a states “there should not be discrimination against workers who are injured in the course and scope of their employment.” Discrimination in this context includes retaliation, and may include any or all of the following:
- termination of employment;
- threatening termination of employment;
- refusing to provide reasonable accommodation for a disability caused by the workplace accident or illness; or
- taking away any of your job-related benefits or privileges.
These anti-retaliation provisions cover every stage of the workers’ compensation process. So in addition to protecting your right to file a claim, California law also prevents an employer from discriminating against you for:
- obtaining treatment or a medical opinion from a doctor;
- settling your workers’ compensation claim; or
- winning an award in a contested proceeding.
Keep in mind, however, that if you are an “at-will” employee, your employer may still find other legitimate reasons to terminate your employment. But if you suspect such actions are a pretext to cover for retaliation related to a workers’ compensation claim, you should not hesitate to contact a qualified Riverside County & Coachella Valley employment lawyer representing employees. Call the Law Office of Karen J. Sloat, APC, today at 760-779-1313.