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When Employees Might be Fired After Getting Hurt at Work

wrongful termination informationYour employer cannot fire you simply because you filed a workers’ compensation claim. That would be considered retaliation, which is against state and federal employment law.

However, California basically allows employers to fire people at any time for any reason or no reason at all. This means you could lose your job while recovering from a work injury and it may still be legal, unless you can prove your firing is retaliation or is a breach of an implied or written contract between you and the employer.

When Employers Cannot Fire You

Some California employers dislike workers’ compensation claims and may even discourage employees from filing them. However, California law prohibits employers from firing employees in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Specifically, an employer cannot fire an employee because he or she does the following:

  • Submitted a workers’ compensation claim to the employer
  • Filed an application with California’s Division of Workers’ Compensation to decide a workers’ compensation claim
  • Said he or she will file a workers’ compensation claim
  • Obtained a disability rating from a physician
  • Settled a workers’ compensation claim with his or her employer
  • Won an award for workers’ compensation benefits
  • Testified on behalf of another employee in a workers’ compensation proceeding
  • Missed work due to a work-related injury
  • Participated in rehabilitation services that are offered as workers’ compensation benefits

If you were terminated shortly after doing any of the activities above, it is in your best interest to contact a qualified workers’ compensation attorney to learn about your legal rights. You can also file a retaliation complaint with the Department of Industrial Relations.

Legal Reasons to Fire You After a Work Injury

There may be several legitimate reasons why an employer can fire you after suffering a work injury, such as:

  • A small business requires a key position to operate and the owner cannot wait for the injured employee to return to work without the business suffering as a result
  • A replacement position to accommodate a worker’s injury-related disability is unavailable
  • The employee can no longer perform the job
  • An unreasonable financial hardship would result if the employer had to accommodate a temporary or permanent disability
  • The employer is dissatisfied with the employee’s work performance

Additionally, California is an at-will state, so the employment relationship can be severed for any reason not prohibited by law.

How Employers Must Treat Injured Workers

California law prohibits discrimination against workers who are injured in the course and scope of their employment. If the injury resulted in a disability, employers cannot discriminate against the employee based on his or her disability.

Unlawful discrimination includes conduct that is detrimental to the worker because of an employment-related injury. However, employers can adopt policies that apply equally to all employees, such as requiring employees who use sick leave to visit a doctor.

Additionally, employers are not required to keep a job open indefinitely. If an employee is no longer able to physically or mentally complete the essential elements of the job, the employer does not have to keep the employee employed even though his or her injury led to this incapacity.

The employer is also not required to return the injured worker to the same position if the employer no longer requires the job. Conversely, the employer may need the position filled right away and legally fill the position before the former employee is able to return to the job.

However, if an employer is not able to provide a legitimate business reason for failing to rehire an injured worker, an inference of discrimination may arise. However, it is the employee’s burden to show that the employer was singled out or treated less favorably than other employees and this was due to the work injury.

Contact an Experienced Attorney Immediately

If you believe that you are owed workers’ compensation benefits and have been denied, the experienced Bakersfield workers’ compensation attorneys at Berry, Smith & Bartell can help. We can help you appeal your claim and gather evidence to attempt to connect your injury to your work activities.

Contact our lawyers to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

For a free case evaluation with Berry, Smith & Bartell, a Professional Law Corporation call 1-800-848-6288 today!

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