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Can an Employer Retaliate Against an Employee For Sustaining, Reporting or Serving as Witness for a Work-Related Injury?

Office conflict between man and woman

Even employees who are aware that they are covered by workers’ compensation are often worried about reporting a workplace accident. Workers may be concerned that reporting an accident they caused can hurt their job prospects, or that an employer will be upset that the employee is costing them money by filing an insurance claim. Workers may be especially concerned about serving as a witness in a different employee’s workers’ comp matter. Below, we discuss California employee rights concerning workplace injuries and participation in workers’ comp claims. If you’ve been hurt on the job in Southern California, call a dedicated Riverside workers’ compensation lawyer for help.

Employers Cannot Retaliate Against an Employee Due to Workers’ Comp

California employees have the right to file for workers’ compensation whenever they sustain a work-related injury. That right goes beyond merely the right to file and obtain coverage; it protects employees from employer practices that would serve to discourage employees from exercising their rights. Both federal and California state laws prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for reporting work-related injuries.

Section 11(c) of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for reporting a work-related injury or illness. Likewise, California law forbids employers from retaliating against an employee for submitting a workers’ comp claim, obtaining workers’ comp benefits, seeking review of a workers’ comp decision before the California Division of Workers’ Compensation, or even for announcing their intention to pursue workers’ comp benefits. The purpose of these provisions is to prevent employers from intimidating employees into hiding workplace injuries.

The anti-retaliation protections extend to employees testifying on behalf of other employees in workers’ comp disputes. Workers must be permitted to testify in legal proceedings, including workers’ comp proceedings, without fear of retaliation.

Can You Be Fired While on Workers’ Comp?

It’s important to note that workers’ comp guarantees employees certain benefits, but it does not guarantee them their job. An employee cannot be fired because they filed for or obtained workers’ comp, and they cannot be fired because they have become disabled. However, if an employer has an entirely unrelated reason to fire an employee, they can do so. The employee will still be entitled to collect whatever workers’ comp benefits they were awarded.

The issue can get murky when an employee is fired for other reasons while obtaining workers’ comp benefits. The employer might point to a neutral reason, including a pattern of negligent or dangerous behavior. Whether that justification is truthful or is merely a pretext for unlawful retaliation is a matter to be discussed with your workers’ comp and employee rights attorney.

We Help You Fight for the Workers’ Comp Benefits You Deserve

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

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