Can California Employees Be Fired for Filing Workers’ Comp Claims?
California’s workers’ compensation laws benefit injured workers because employees promptly receive benefits without having to prove their employers are at fault. Employers also benefit because workers’ comp laws bar lawsuits against employers by employees who are injured on the job.
Some employers, however, discourage employees from filing workers’ comp claims, fearing that their workers’ compensation insurance premiums will rise along with the number of reported claims. Under the California Labor Code, it is a crime for an employer to take any negative action against an employee because the employee files a workers’ comp claim.
The employer not only faces criminal penalties, but also may end up owing the employee additional benefits, including:
- An employer that fires, threatens to fire or otherwise discriminates against an employee who files or announces an intention to file a workers’ comp claim must:
- Reinstate the employee
- Pay the expenses the employee incurred in fighting the employer’s discriminatory act (up to $250)
- Reimburse the employee for lost wages and benefits
- Pay the employee a bonus equal to 50 percent of the compensation at issue (up to $10,000)
- An insurer becomes responsible for the penalties that otherwise would be paid by the employer if the insurer:
- Advises the employer to fire or otherwise discriminate against a workers’ comp claimant
- Threatens the employer with policy cancellation or increased premiums if the employer fails to take action against the claimant
The law also protects coworkers who testify on behalf of injured workers in contested workers’ comp claims. Any employee who has been subjected to discriminatory practices related to a workers’ comp claim should seek immediate help from an experienced California workers' compensation lawyer.