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Fear of retaliation prevents some workers from filing claims

When you work as an employee in California, you typically have the legal right to workers' compensation for any injuries you suffer or illnesses you acquire while working. After all, this is the entire point of the program. It is meant to protect workers from incurring substantial medical debt or becoming impoverished due to a disability caused by a job. Sadly, some workers worry about how filing a claim could impact their job and their future.

While most employers comply with the law and support injured or sickened workers, others choose to punish those who seek the benefits they deserve under law. Some employers may deny reasonable claims, fire or demote workers who file claims, or even refuse to accommodate a worker's need to remain on the job after an injury. All of these are forms of retaliation, and they are all illegal under federal law.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission protects injured workers

Employer retaliation is the most common form of discrimination reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which means that despite its illegal status, workers have a reason to fear it. A worker has the right to file a workers' compensation claim, as well as to request reasonable accommodations for any disability that results from a workplace injury or illness.

Sadly, some employers will punish those who stand up for their rights. Retaliation can look different in different workplaces. For some, it could be straightforward, such as suddenly getting fired, demoted or transferred to a less desirable shift or position. Other times, even if a worker's performance doesn't change, he or she could start receiving lower performance reviews or write-ups for minor infractions that other workers are not disciplined for.

You have the right to push back against retaliation

Getting hurt at work can cause all kinds of issues for the worker involved. It can lead to lost wages, increased medical expenses, decreased quality of life, and long-term health and mobility issues. Workers' compensation protects against all of those issues. Workers can receive temporary or permanent disability pay when they are unable to work. While it won't replace full weekly paychecks, it can provide enough to cover basic living expenses.

The medical coverage through workers' compensation helps ensure that even with reduced income, injured workers receive adequate care, from trauma care in the wake of the accident to physical therapy to overcome limitations or pain that lingers. More importantly, unlike private medical insurance, which often requires workers to pay co-pays, co-insurance and large deductibles, workers' compensation pays for all related medical expenses without contribution by the injured worker.

You should not face punishment or retaliation from your employer from using the rights afforded to you as an American worker. If you've been experiencing retaliatory behavior in the wake of an injury or work-acquired illness, you need to stand up for your rights as an injured worker.

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