If you or somebody you care about sustains an injury while at work in California, you should be entitled to compensation for your injuries, lost wages, and possible disability benefits. However, there are times when employers do not respond appropriately after an employee is injured on the job. In fact, sometimes employers terminate employees who are collecting workers’ compensation benefits. Here, we want to discuss whether or not you can be terminated while you are collecting workers’ comp in California.
Can your employer fire you if you are collecting workers’ compensation?
The answer to this question can be complicated, and it may even surprise some readers. The reality is that there are times when an employee can be terminated while they are collecting workers’ compensation benefits. However, there are also very specific reasons why an employee may not be terminated while they are collecting these benefits.
Under California worker’ compensation law, an employer cannot terminate a person’s employment just because they sustained an injury on the job or decided to file a workers’ comp claim. However, this does not mean that the employer cannot terminate a person for any reason at all.
California, like most other states, is considered an “at-will” work state. This means that an employee can leave their job at any time and for any reason. It also means that the employer can terminate an employee at any time and for any reason, so long as the reason does not violate the law.
Therein lies the catch – terminating an employee just because they sustained an on-the-job injury or are collecting workers’ compensation benefits is against the law.
However, when a person loses their job while they are collecting workers’ compensation benefits, very rarely will an employer actually admit that they are doing so because the worker was injured or filed a claim. What is much more likely is that an employer will use a “legal” reason to terminate somebody when they are collecting workers’ compensation benefits. This is why it is a good idea to talk with a San Bernardino workers’ compensation attorney to make sure you get what you deserve.
Some of the ways that a person could legally be terminated from their job after they have filed a workers’ compensation claim include:
- Company financial problems
- Company restructuring
- Poor work performance
- Various other legal reasons
What if you are terminated before you fully recover?
Some people mistakenly think that if they terminate an employee before the employee makes a full medical recovery that they will no longer have to pay the workers’ comp for that employee. That is simply not the case. In California, the workers’ compensation program is required to continue paying an injured employee their benefits until the employee has reached what is considered maximum medical improvement (MMI). We should note that this does not apply if a person was terminated from their job for misconduct.
Limited work duties
There are some situations where a doctor may clear a person to return to work, but only with certain restrictions in place. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are required to make reasonable efforts to comply with meeting their physical needs in these situations. This could involve making accommodations with your current position or offering a light-duty position with fewer physical requirements until you fully recover.
If an employer is unable to make these accommodations, then the employee will be excused from work and will receive a significant portion of their average weekly wage in compensation.