When someone is hurt on the job in California, they have a right to file a workers’ compensation claim to seek medical coverage and wage replacement benefits. An employer is strictly forbidden from taking any adverse action against an employee who is exercising their right to file a claim. An employee cannot be fired, discriminated against, or otherwise punished for filing for a workers’ compensation claim.

There have been many complicated legal cases regarding the scope of California law. One issue that has arisen many times: Can an employer force an employee to use their sick time for medical treatment related to an on-the-job injury? Here, our workers’ compensation defense team addresses the question by highlighting what you should know about Labor Code Section 132.

No Discrimination Against Employees Who File or Intend to File for Workers’ Compensation

As a starting point, it is important to emphasize that California law strictly forbids employers from taking any retaliatory action against an employee who files for workers’ compensation benefits or expresses their intent to file for workers’ compensation benefits. Under Labor Code Section 132(a), an employer that “in any manner discriminates” against a worker who seeks workers’ compensation benefits “is guilty of a misdemeanor” and may be subject to significant financial benefits, including up to $10,000.00 in additional workers’ compensation benefits payable to the affected worker.

California Supreme Court: Labor Code Section 132 and Sick Leave

Does requiring an employee to use their sick leave time for a work-related injury constitute discriminatory action in violation of Labor Code Section 132? As always, the answer depends on the specific circumstances. That being said, in an illustrative 2003 decision, the Supreme Court of California weighed in on this very issue.

In the case of Department of Rehabilitation v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, an employee was able to return to their job after suffering a work-related impairment. However, ongoing medical treatment was still required. The employer made the worker use his sick leave benefits to cover the time he took off for the medical treatment.

The employee filed a claim against his employer under Labor Code Section 132 on the grounds that he was being discriminated against. In reviewing the decision, the Supreme Court of California ruled against the employee because the employer was able to demonstrate that all workers were held to the same standard. They were all required to use sick leave benefits for medical appointments.

The Lesson: Labor Code Section 132(a) requires employers to treat employees who file for workers’ compensation benefits as well as all other employees. The state Supreme Court found that an employee can be required to use sick leave for work injury-related medical treatment, as long as other employees are always required to use sick leave for medical treatment not related to an industrial injury.

Get Help From Our Fresno, CA Workers’ Compensation Defense Attorney Today

At Yrulegui & Roberts, our California workers’ compensation defense lawyers have the skills and knowledge to handle the full spectrum of Labor Code 132 cases. If you have specific questions, we will get you answers. Call us now or send us a message online for a fully private initial consultation. With offices in Fresno, Sacramento, and Bakersfield, our law firm provides workers’ compensation defense services all over the area, including in Clovis, Madera, Merced, Stockton, and Three Rivers.