In the state of California, employers are required to maintain workers’ compensation insurance in order to reimburse employees who have been injured on the job. Just like how you pay monthly payments to your car insurance provider, employers pay monthly premiums to workers’ compensation insurance agencies. In exchange, the insurance company acts as a claim administrator for any injuries that occur at work. This includes receiving claims, reviewing claims, accepting or denying claims, overseeing medical treatment, and making payments to injured employees.
Employers are often times not very involved in the claims process aside from reporting the claim to the insurance company. However, numerous costly workers’ compensation claims affect the premiums employers must pay to the insurance provider. The more successful claims are, the higher the premiums become. In order to decrease premiums and avoid payouts, employers sometimes skirt the law and terminate employees who were injured at work. This is illegal and can result in a variety of civil penalties.
When you are at work, performing tasks as assigned or associated with your role, you are on-the-clock. If an accident occurs and you are injured, the employer is liable for damages caused by the accident. California state law and regulations protect employees from greedy employers who try to avoid fault. If you file a workers’ compensation claim and the insurance provider wrongly denies it, there are avenues you can take to appeal this decision to the California Division of Workers’ Compensation administrative law court.
However, what happens if you are terminated because you filed a workers’ compensation claim? This is known as retaliatory discharge. In California, unless you have an employment contract that states otherwise, your employment is “at will.” This means an employer can hire or fire at will, with or without cause. Without cause covers situations such as decreased profits, whereas with cause covers situations such as a violation of company policy.
There are exceptions, however. One such exception is firing an employee because he or she filed a workers’ compensation claim. You can file a wrongful termination lawsuit against such an employer if:
- You were injured on-the-job;
- You filed a workers’ compensation claim;
- You were eligible for disability benefits;
- The employer terminated you; and
- This termination occurred because you filed a claim.
Seeking Disability Benefits After a Proper Termination
If your employer did not fire you simply for filing a claim but instead had a valid reason for termination, you still may be able to seek disability benefits post-termination. If you are injured and file a claim while you are still employed, your employer must pay disability benefits to cover your lost wages for the period in which you are unable to return to work. If you can never perform your job duties again or if the employer cannot accommodate your doctor-ordered work restrictions, you can receive total disability benefits.
The employer may terminate you because it no longer has a position for you given your limitations. However, it is still responsible for payments unless it offered accommodations to you that you refused prior to your termination.
Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Lawyer. If you or a loved one has sustained an injury at work, please call me at 916-921-6400 for free, friendly advice. Read more about us on our website, http://www.AutoAccident.com.
The Law Offices of Edward A. Smith is currently a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.