Will Workers’ Compensation Protect My Job?

Workers in the State of California are eligible to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits if they suffer an injury or illness while on the job and within the scope of their job duties. In many cases, an injured worker will eventually be able to go back to work in some way. However, there might not be a job available to go back to.

Unlike in many other states throughout the country, California law does not require that an employer protect a worker’s job after an illness or injury. Similarly, employers are not required to find an injured or ill worker a new job in the event they are involved in an accident that limits their work abilities. However, California law does provide for anti-discrimination. 

If you have suffered an injury while you were on the job and within the course of your employment, a California workers’ compensation attorney may be able to help. Your lawyer can determine if you have a viable claim, and if so, could file the claim and the necessary paperwork on your behalf.

Anti-Discrimination Law in California

Specifically, pursuant to Section 132a of the California Workers’ Compensation Code, an employer may not terminate an employee simply because he or she suffers an injury while on the job. Although the employer does not have to give an injured worker his or her job back, absent a bona fide business reason, the employer might be faced with a discrimination claim if he/she does not rehire the injured worker when his/her position is still available. 

Moreover, the employer might be able to demonstrate that a business exception exists. For example, the employer may have a reasonable belief that the injured worker has suffered a permanent disability that will prevent him/her from being able to perform various job functions.

If the employer raises an exception, the employee must typically show that because of the work injury, the employer took some action to single him/her out. If the employer follows a neutral policy with respect to any and all employees who suffered injuries while on the job, that will not typically serve as sufficient evidence for a discrimination claim.

Providing for a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

In some cases, where a worker suffers a serious enough illness or injury, the worker’s condition might amount to a disability pursuant to the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a federal statute. Under the provisions of this Act, employers who have 15 or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations to workers who suffer from a disability unless the employer would suffer some type of undue hardship. 

Under the ADA, in order for a particular condition to qualify as a disability, it must amount to a mental or physical impairment that imposes a substantial limitation on an important life activity. Qualifying life activities include grooming, walking, breathing, or some other bodily function – such as one that involves the respiratory or immune system.

If a person’s work injury also falls under the umbrella of a disability, the employer must work with the injured worker and make reasonable efforts to keep the individual employed. For example, the employer might need to provide the worker with the necessary equipment, additional time off, or different work duties.

A knowledgeable California workers’ compensation attorney will be able to answer all of your legal questions, could help you file a claim, or challenge an unlawful termination by your employer.