Affects of Job Termination on a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Sometimes, when an employee is injured on the job and files a workers’ compensation claim, the employer subsequently fires the employee. While some firings may be legitimate and based solely on the employee’s job performance, other firings may have the illegitimate goal of evading payment of workers’ compensation. The sequence of events reflected in the latter scenario is referred to as a retaliatory discharge. Whistleblower-related retaliatory discharge is more widely known, thanks to depictions in film and television, but it also occurs in the workers’ compensation context.
Retaliation Under California Workers Compensation Law
As the California Labor Code makes clear, employers may not retaliate against an employee who files a workers’ compensation claim by terminating that employee. Section 132a of the code defines the nature of retaliatory discharge as one of discrimination, and states that there should not be discrimination against California workers who are injured in the course and scope of their employment.
While we can clearly understand the word “discrimination” as referring to retaliatory discharge, the words “course” and “scope” require further discussion. These terms are included in the code to prevent employers from being held liable for employee injuries unrelated to an employee’s job duties. For example, if an employee’s job is to sit at a desk transcribing audio recordings into text on a computer, but the employee decides to engage in horseplay by doing cartwheels down the hallway and injures his or her back in the process, the employer will not be held liable. This would be unfair, as cartwheels are not among the duties of a transcriptionist. The philosophy underlying this section of code is the principal-agent relationship between employer and employee. In the employment relationship, the agent (employee) is thought to act with the assent (agreement) of the principal (employer), for the benefit of the principal, and under the control of the principal. The satisfaction of these conditions is the reason why the employer pays the employee. Out of fairness, to ensure that employees don’t incur medical bills cutting into or even exceeding the value of wages while following the directions of an employer, California’s workers’ compensation system protects employees who sustain injuries while working in the course and scope of their employment.
Reach Out to a Workers’ Compensation Attorney for Help
If an employer fires an employee who sustains an injury while acting in the course and scope of employment, the employer commits a misdemeanor crime. Employees who are victims of this type of discrimination may recover compensation such as additional workers’ compensation benefits, reinstatement, back pay, and the value of lost benefits.
If you have been discharged after filing a workers’ compensation claim, contact an experienced California workers’ compensation attorney immediately to determine your rights and the forms of compensation you may be entitled to.