Similar to the vast majority of jurisdictions in the United States, California is an at-will employment state. In effect, this means an employer is allowed to terminate a worker for virtually any reason, including for no reason at all. However, employers cannot terminate workers for an illegal reason.
One illegal reason to fire an employee is in retaliation for filing for workers’ comp benefits. In this blog post, our Fresno workers’ comp lawyer explains the most important things that injured workers should know about their rights under LC 132a.
In California, all employers are required to carry no-fault workers’ compensation insurance. As an employee, you have a right to workers’ comp benefits. If you suffered an injury on the job or developed a work-related occupational disease, you have a legal right to file for benefits. Your employer cannot stop you from filing a workers’ comp claim. In fact, businesses and organizations are forbidden from taking any adverse retaliatory action against workers who file for benefits.
Under California Labor Code § 132a, an employer faces additional legal liability discharge, threaten to discharge, or otherwise discriminate against an employee who has filed for workers’ comp benefits or who has made their intention to file for such benefits known. In other words, an employer in California cannot fire you because you filed for workers’ comp. It is illegal to do so.
Employer Sanctions Under LC 132
Notably, California LC § 132a contains automatic statutory sanctions for employers that violate the law. If an employer fires, threatens to fire, or otherwise discriminates against a worker in violation of Section Labor Code 132a, the affected employee is entitled to penalty compensation worth one half of the value of their total workers’ comp claim, up to a maximum award of $10,000 plus an additional $250 in costs and fees. Depending on the circumstances, other compensatory damages may be available as well, potentially including for back wages.
You Can be Terminated (or Otherwise Punished) for Unrelated Reasons
To be clear, you are not totally protected against being fired simply because you filed for workers’ comp benefits or announced your intention to file for workers’ comp benefits. LC 132 prohibits employers from retaliating against workers because they are bringing a workers’ comp claim. An employer could still terminate or otherwise take adverse action against an employee for unrelated reasons. Of course, employers sometimes misrepresent their true intentions. A lawyer will protect your rights if you were fired for an illegal reason.
Call Our Fresno, CA Workers’ Comp Attorney for Help With Your Case A partner and shareholder at Yrulegui & Roberts, Joseph C. Yrulegui is an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. If you have questions about an LC 132A case, Mr. Yrulegui can help. Contact us today for a confidential initial appointment. We represent injured employees throughout Fresno County, including in Fresno, Clovis, Coalinga, Huron, Kerman, Mendota, and Sanger.