California Workplace Retaliation Laws

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In the state of California, workers are employed “at-will,” which means that they are free to leave their employment anytime they like and for whatever reason. This also means that they can be terminated for just about any reason as well. However, California law does prohibit employers from engaging in workplace retaliation in specific circumstances, including the following:

  • If the employee reports a violation of law
  • If the employee opposes, complaints, or participates in an investigation related to workplace harassment or employee discrimination
  • If the employee makes a reasonable accommodation request because of their disability or religious beliefs
  • If the employee files or assists in a qui tam lawsuit under the California False Claims Act
  • If the employee reports in injury or collects workers’ compensation benefits

Here, our workers’ compensation lawyers in Long Beach, CA want to specifically discuss workplace retaliation in California related to employee injuries. Every employee should be able to receive compensation for their medical bills and lost wages in the event they are injured while performing job-related duties. They should not have to worry about retaliation from an employer.

Why Would an Employer Retaliate After an Injury

Anecdotally, we are sure you have heard of situations where employees choose not to report a workplace injury because they fear retaliation from their supervisor or the company itself. In a perfect world, nobody would ever have to worry about whether or not reporting a workplace injury would be a bad thing. California has strong workers’ compensation laws, and this is designed to be a no-fault system. No matter who causes an injury in the workplace, an employee should be able to receive coverage for any medical bills and lost wages they incur.

However, employers are always looking for ways to cut their costs, and reporting a workplace injury could increase their workers’ compensation insurance premiums. Additionally, an injured worker could put into the company’s bottom line because the worker may have to take time off.

Even though an employer may not say it outright, some make it very clear that reporting a workplace injury will result in negative consequences for the employee.

What Does Workplace Retaliation Look Like in California?

Workplace retaliation can occur in many ways. Some of the main retaliatory behaviors that employers use against employees who report a workplace injury include the following:

  • Outright termination of their employment
  • Increased or decreased workloads
  • Decreases in salary or demotions
  • A denial of promotions or raises
  • Movement to unfavorable shifts or jobs

Retaliatory behavior can also include harassment from supervisors and other coworkers, which creates a hostile work environment.

Can a Person be Terminated if They Collect Workers’ Comp?

It is possible for a person to lose their job if they are collecting workers’ compensation benefits, though the official reason for the termination cannot be because they sustained an on-the-job injury and reported the injury. For example, if a person is terminated due to scheduled restructuring of the company or department, then this will likely be an acceptable termination.

Additionally, if an employee has engaged in other conduct that is deemed worthy of termination, they can still lose their job.

Often, it is very difficult to determine whether or not workplace retaliation has occurred due to the workplace injury or due to something else going on in the work environment. The signs of workplace retaliation are often subtle. It is important for any person who thinks they have been retaliated against in the workplace after sustaining an on-the-job injury to work with a skilled attorney who can analyze the facts of the case.