You're working outside, on a busy construction site, when you get hit by a vehicle driven by another worker. They have to rush you to the hospital. You have serious spinal injuries. While you do hope to recover in time, you know that you're not going back to work on Monday. It could be weeks or months before you even consider working again. It may never happen.
You quickly realize that you need to file for workers' compensation. Every day that you can't go to work, you lose wages. Every day that you spend in the hospital, the medical bills get that much higher. You didn't anticipate these costs. You have no way to cover them.
In addition, you feel worried about your family. You need to buy food, pay the mortgage and keep the utilities up to date. You can't start missing payments and watching your life fall apart. The workers' comp. should help you stay financially stable so that you can focus on your physical recovery.
What you really worry about, though, is that the company wants to prevent this workers' comp claim. They don't want to pay you. You think they're just going to fire you instead, trying to prevent your filing. Can they do it?
Quite simply, no. They can't fire you because of your injury or because you filed for workers' compensation. They can't terminate your job to prevent you from seeking benefits. They can't retaliate against you for filing if they "strongly suggest" that you don't do so. They can't try to intimidate you into not reporting the incident.
If you deserve workers' compensation, the company simply needs to treat you fairly, just like they treat all of the other employees.
It's not just firing you to avoid the payout that is illegal. They also cannot:
- Cut your hours
- Change your job
- Make your job unfavorable to you
- Dock your pay
- Give you a demotion
- Harass you on the job
- Force you to quit
- Change your title
- Prevent you from moving up the corporate ladder
Again, employers must treat you fairly. Some attempt to get around the rules against firing employees by making their jobs miserable and treating them poorly so that they'll quit, but the law protects you from that type of retaliation, as well.
Unfortunately, no matter what rights you have, you can't guarantee that your employer will treat you properly. They may still retaliate or threaten to do so to intimidate you. When you face this type of behavior, make sure you are well aware of all of your legal rights in California.