Workers’ compensation insurance provides financial protection to employees who were injured while on the job. Following an incident in the workplace, employees have a right to file a claim—even if employers are confident that the claim is meritless.
Under California law (Labor Code section 132(a)), employers are legally prohibited from taking adverse action against a worker who files or intends to file workers’ compensation claims. While Labor Code section 132(a) may appear straightforward on the surface, it is a complicated, nuanced regulation. Here, our California workers’ compensation defense attorneys explain what you should know about Labor Code section 132(a).
California Labor Code Section 132(a): A Prohibition on Discrimination or Retaliation in Workers’ Compensation
Under section 132(a) of the California Labor Code, employers are strictly prohibited from taking adverse action against an employee who suffers a workplace injury or who files a workers’ compensation claim. Put simply, a company or organization cannot discriminate, discharge, or otherwise retaliate against an employee who is seeking workers’ compensation benefits. To do so is a violation of state law and will expose an employer to sanctions.
Know the Standard: The Elements Needed to Prove Liability in a Labor Code Section 132(a) Claim
Unfortunately, some companies and organizations face unjustified discrimination or retaliation claims under Labor Code section 132(a). All companies and organizations should know the standard of liability for Labor Code section 132(a) cases so they can effectively defend their rights and interests. An employee who is alleging discrimination or retaliation on the grounds that they filed a workers’ compensation claim must prove the following three things:
- Knowledge: Employers can defend Labor Code section 132(a) claims on the grounds that they had no knowledge an employee filed for benefits or intended to file for benefits. An employer cannot violate Labor Code section 132(a) without knowledge.
- Discriminatory/Retaliatory Act: To violate Labor Code section 132(a), an employer must have taken discriminatory/retaliatory action against the employee or threaten to take such action to discourage the filing of a claim. Lack of a discriminatory or retaliatory act is a defense.
- Causal Connection: Filing for workers’ compensation benefits is not a protection against adverse employment actions. Employers are only in violation of Labor Code section 132(a) if they take negative action against an employee because they sought benefits. Employers can defend claims on the grounds that they had good cause for discharging or otherwise taking action against an employee that was wholly unrelated to workers’ compensation.
What are the Penalties for Violating Labor Code Section 132(a)?
Labor Code section 132(a) claims are a serious matter. If an employee is filing a discrimination or retaliation claim, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced California workers’ compensation defense lawyer as soon as possible. A company that violates Labor Code section 132(a) may be subject to serious sanctions. An employee may be entitled to up to $10,000.00 in additional workers’ compensation damages, reinstatement, and payment of lost wages and benefits. The damages may be an uninsurable loss to the employer.
At Yrulegui & Roberts, our California workers’ compensation defense lawyers have more than four decades of experience representing employers, insurance companies, and claims administrators in the San Joaquin Valley and beyond. We will protect your rights and interests. If you have questions about Labor Code section 132(a), our attorneys are here to help. For a strictly confidential initial case evaluation, please contact us at (559) 222-0660.