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Can I Be Fired for Reporting a Work Injury?

Railroad engineer injured in an accident at work. Railroad engineer injured in an accident at work on the railway tracks. Coworker calling for help

If you are injured on the job in California, you are guaranteed certain rights. You have the right to workers’ compensation coverage, the right to take certain types of medical leave, and other rights as well. Many workers worry about reporting a workplace injury because they do not want to admit they did anything wrong, or because they worry they will be fired if they are unable to do their job. If you do report a workplace incident, can you be fired? Read on to learn about employer retaliation after a workplace injury, and if you’ve been hurt on the job in Southern California, reach out to a seasoned Riverside workers’ compensation lawyer for assistance.

California Law Prohibits Retaliation and Wrongful Termination

California law offers strong protections for workers. Some of those protections apply when an employee is injured on the job. Injured workers are guaranteed workers’ compensation benefits, regardless of how the accident occurred (and who was at fault), with limited exceptions.

Injured workers are also protected against unlawful retaliation. Cal. Labor Code section 132a explicitly prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who suffer a workplace injury. An employer cannot terminate or otherwise punish an employee for reporting a workplace injury and seeking or intending to seek workers’ compensation coverage.

What if I am Fired After a Workplace Injury?

A worker who is terminated after a workplace injury may or may not have a claim for unlawful retaliation. Employers of at-will employees (meaning employees not subject to specific contractual rights) can typically fire an employee for any reason, or no reason at all, so long as the reason is not unlawful. Employers cannot discriminate against employees based on their race or gender, and employers cannot retaliate against an employee for exercising a legal right–including reporting a workplace injury and filing a workers’ compensation claim.

However, employers can terminate at-will employees for any other legitimate reason. They are not required to hold a worker’s job open while they recover from a workplace injury. Employers covered by the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) must grant workers at least 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a given year for medical reasons. Beyond those 12 weeks, however, employers can let a worker go, even after a workplace injury, and even if the worker could physically return to work after additional recovery time. Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to CFRA.

If an employee can show that they were terminated because of their workplace injury, however, or because they filed for workers’ compensation, then they have a claim for retaliation and wrongful termination. An employee who is wrongfully terminated in violation of the law can file a claim against their employer for a variety of damages. Remedies available for a Section 132a violation include job reinstatement, back wages, increased compensation, and other damages available under a wrongful termination claim. Employers who violate Section 132a may also be guilty of a criminal misdemeanor.

Fight for the Workers’ Comp Benefits You Are Guaranteed

For help getting benefits after an on-the-job injury or workplace illness in Southern California, call Ochoa & Calderon to discuss your case with a professional and talented California workers’ comp lawyer. Call 951-901-4444 in Riverside or 844-401-0750 toll-free throughout Southern California.

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