Both federal and California state laws provide protections for workers against retaliatory acts from employers. These laws allow employees to engage in such activities as jury duty, parental care and court visits without reprisal.
In the area of workers’ compensation, gray areas exist that might make it hard to identify employer retaliation.
The importance of Labor Code 132
Information from the Cal Chamber Advocacy website makes it clear that employers cannot target an employee after filing a workers’ compensation claim. Punitive action can take several forms, including terminating an employee because he or she filed a claim. California Labor Code Section 132a covers this area of labor law, but not all situations remain clear.
In theory, an employer could retaliate and still make it seem legal. Conversely, an employer could terminate an employee for due cause soon after a workers’ compensation claim but the timing could make the firing appear suspect.
One overarching principle that can negate a charge of retaliation against an employer has to do with the right of the company to make business decisions. If the company can prove a legitimate reason for a personnel action against someone with a recent workers’ comp claim, the company could prevail.
The role of human resources
A company that fires a worker in the aftermath of a workers’ compensation claim should have backup documentation from its human resources department. This could provide evidence that the termination has a legitimate foundation, such as poor work habits.
Without this documentation, the firing could fall into the category of retaliation. Any worker who has a workers’ compensation case should know his or her rights under applicable laws.