If you were injured on the job and you are collecting workers’ compensation benefits, your employer is not legally required to let you return to work, but California has anti-discrimination laws that can protect you from retaliation.
Legal Safeguards for Employees Collecting Workers’ Compensation
Both federal and state laws provide protections for employees who need to take time off because of a medical condition. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a federal law, you may be entitled to 12 workweeks of leave. That law applies in situations involving “a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job.” The California Family Rights Act offers protections for people who work for a company with 50 or more employees. Workers are entitled to up to 12 workweeks of leave to recover from a serious health condition.
According to California Labor Code (LAB) §132a, if your employer fires or threatens to fire you in retaliation for filing or planning to file a worker’s compensation claim, your compensation can be increased by 50 percent, up to $10,000.
If you were seriously injured, your company may be required to provide reasonable accommodations so you can return to work. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations so an otherwise qualified individual with a disability can perform a job unless providing reasonable accommodations would create an undue hardship for the business.
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act applies to businesses with five or more employees. According to that statute, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against workers who belong to a protected category or to retaliate against employees who exercise their legal rights.
Your Employer May Be Able to Legally Terminate Your Employment
Your employer may have a legitimate reason not to rehire you. If you have a long-term or permanent disability that will prevent you from performing key parts of your job, the business may be justified in ending your employment and hiring someone to replace you. If you used to play an essential role, it may need to fill your position to keep the business running.
Your employer may state that your firing or layoff was part of a larger restructuring plan that happened to coincide with your injury. If other employees were also let go at or around the same time, or if the company decided to eliminate an entire department, you may not be a victim of retaliation.
Businesses Sometimes Illegally Punish Workers
Retaliating against an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim is illegal, but laws do not always stop employers from engaging in unlawful practices. If you believe that your employer retaliated against you, you may be able to take legal action.
If, for example, the company did not take you back, even though you had recovered from your injuries enough to perform the job you used to do, you may be a victim of retaliation. You may be suffering from discrimination if the business singled you out for treatment that is different than the treatment others received under similar circumstances or if it did not apply a company policy consistently.
For instance, if other workers were able to return to their jobs after lengthy leaves of absence, but you were fired, you may have a valid discrimination case. You have legal recourse for these unfair actions, so do not be afraid to seek help.
Seek Legal Guidance
A Los Angeles workers’ compensation attorney can explain your legal rights. Pintas & Mullins Law Firm has helped people across the United States who were injured on the job and who then suffered because of retaliation. We are not afraid to take on powerful entities, including large corporations, to seek justice for clients.
We can review your case to understand the circumstances that led to your accident, the severity of your injuries, and your prognosis. If you are or will be able to return to work, but your company fired you while you were collecting workers’ compensation benefits, we may be able to sue the business for unfair employment practices.
State law limits the amount of time you have to take legal action. Under the terms of the California Workers’ Compensation Code, you must file a petition to seek reinstatement or reimbursement for lost wages and benefits within one year from the date of the discriminatory act or the date of termination. If you do not meet that deadline, you may be unable to seek the compensation that you deserve.
Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 529-9122. We can discuss your case, explain your rights in more detail, and tell you how we may be able to help.