A no-fault workers’ compensation case is typically the only remedy that an injured worker has against an employer. However, under California Labor Code § 4553, there is an exception for cases in which an employee is injured due to “serious and willful misconduct” by an employer. Employers found liable for serious and willful misconduct can face significant financial penalties.

This raises an important question: How do employers defend serious and willful misconduct allegations? The short answer is that you need to be ready to address the main basis for liability. Here, our Sacramento workers’ compensation defense attorneys describe the two arguments that employees can use to prove “serious and willful misconduct” and how you can prepare for them.

  1. Knowledge of and Deliberate Failure to Correct Dangerous Condition

To hold an employer in California legally liable for serious and willful misconduct, a claimant (injured employee) may argue that an employer knew about and deliberately failed to correct a dangerously hazardous condition in the workplace. To be clear, this is not a negligence standard. California courts have consistently ruled that serious and willful misconduct is something far beyond mere negligence. Employees in serious and willful misconduct cases must prove both employer knowledge of a dangerous safety hazard and their deliberate failure to correct the matter.

How to Defend the Allegation: If you or your company is facing serious and willful misconduct allegations on the grounds that you knew about and deliberately failed to correct a dangerous condition in the workplace, it is important that you gather and organize all relevant evidence, including anything that suggests lack of knowledge or an effort to address the dangerous condition.

  • A Violation of California Workplace Safety Regulations

Serious and willful misconduct claims can also be filed on the grounds that a worker was injured because an employer violated a California state workplace safety regulation. Indeed, a significant share of the serious and willful misconduct claims in Central California are filed after a workplace accident occurs and Cal/OSHA issues a citation. Though, no Cal/OSHA citation is required for an employee to bring a claim on these grounds.

How to Defend the Allegation: Once again, an employee must prove that a violation is both “serious and willful” to bring this type of claim and seek additional compensation from the employer. In defending a claim based on an alleged Cal/OSHA violation, an employer should secure all relevant evidence, including prior positive safety inspections, anything that suggests lack of knowledge, and anything that shows an effort to improve workplace safety. 

Schedule a Confidential Consultation with a Sacramento, CA Workers’ Compensation Defense Lawyer

Our Sacramento workers’ compensation defense lawyers are devoted to providing aggressive, cost-effective legal advocacy to clients. Do you have any questions or concerns about defending yourself or your company against serious and willful misconduct allegations? Our team can help. Contact us today to arrange your fully confidential, no strings attached consultation. We defend serious and willful misconduct claims in Sacramento and throughout the wider region in Central California.