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Can an Employer Summarily Terminate an Employee After He Is Released From Care and Given Permanent Work Restrictions in a Work Injury?

Disability businessman with wheelchair against business office

Workers’ compensation provides benefits in the event of a workplace injury. There are limitations to what workers’ comp and other California worker protection laws and regulations provide, however. Many injured workers worry, rightfully, about whether their job will be waiting for them after they recover. Those worries are compounded if the injury leads to permanent limitations. Can your employer terminate you if you have been given permanent work restrictions after a workplace injury? Continue reading to learn about job protection after a workplace injury. If you’ve been hurt on the job in Southern California, call a seasoned Riverside workers’ compensation lawyer for help.

Workers’ Comp Does Not Guarantee a Worker’s Job

California law requires employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance for the benefit of their employees. Workers’ comp will cover the medical bills, lost wages, disability, job placement training, and a few other benefits for workers who are injured on the job. What workers’ comp will not do is guarantee an employee their job. Workers who go on workers’ comp must be compensated appropriately for their injuries, including ongoing disability benefits where appropriate. California law does not require California employers to keep an injured worker’s job open while they are out.

So long as an employer does not violate any other law or contract, they are free to fill a position and terminate an employee while the employee is out on workers’ comp or even right after they return. The employee is, however, still entitled to their workers’ comp benefits, even after termination, so long as they were employed and on the job when their injury occurred.

California Employers Cannot Discriminate Due to Work Injury or Disability

While California’s workers’ comp laws do not guarantee an employee their old job back, there are additional protections that caution against terminating an employee after a workplace injury. Employers cannot legally fire an employee because of a workplace injury, or because they sought or obtained workers’ compensation. California law prohibits termination as punishment for a workers’ comp claim.

If an employer fires an employee without cause right after they are given permanent work restrictions, that might constitute wrongful termination unless the employer can provide a legitimate business reason for the termination. Legitimate business reasons include a worker’s poor performance, company restructuring, financial issues, or any other legitimate reason. It is, moreover, a legitimate business decision for an employer to terminate an employee if they reasonably believe the employee is permanently unable to perform their job or that their limitations will last so long that the employer reasonably needs to replace the employee.

Employers are also prohibited from discriminating against employees based on disability. If an injury or illness is severe enough, it could qualify as a disability under the Americans With Disability Act (ADA). Employers with 15 or more employees must provide reasonable accommodation to workers with disabilities in order to help them perform their job unless doing so would cause undue hardship. If an employee could continue to perform their same job with reasonable accommodation after a workplace injury, firing that employee might constitute workplace discrimination. Reasonable accommodation includes things like allowing additional breaks, changing work duties, or providing necessary equipment.

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 a dedicated, thorough California workers’ comp lawyer. Call 951-901-4444 in Riverside or 844-401-0750 toll-free throughout Southern California.

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