IT IS AGAINST THE LAW for an employer to discriminate against an employee for seeking benefits as a result of an injury. Sometimes an employer will fire or demote an employee, or just "give the person a hard time" because she or he reported a work injury. This is against the law. Labor Code section 132a says that any employer who discriminates in any manner against an employee because he or she has filed, or made known his or her intention to file a claim for compensation is guilty of a misdemeanor. A criminal action against the employer can proceed. Additionally, if a judge agrees, the employer can be penalized by one half the total compensation paid to the employee but in no event more than $10,000.
If you have questions about your rights under the California workers compensation laws, send the question to my office, Law office of Michael J. Richter, or call a workers compensation attorney in your area or call the State of California Workers' Compensation Information and Assistance bureau in your area. Public Information and Assistance officers are usually overworked, but very willing to help. Polite, courteous behavior on your part will go a long way to helping you get the best help from them.
Please remember that workers compensation attorneys are paid from your settlement. They receive 10 to 15 per cent of your permanent disability award. Some attorneys cannot pay their bills and costs by taking cases worthless than $10,000. Attorneys who do take cases valued under $10,000 usually take great numbers of these cases and usually delegate most of the communications with clients to their staffs. Please do not take this personally. Most staffs are well trained.
You can help yourself by educating yourself about your injury, and about the compensation system. Learn how to treat your injury, what exercises to do to help it heal. Educate yourself about the workers compensation system. The Workers' Compensation Appeals Board in your area usually has informational pamphlets available for the public.
In summary, I have listed a few, "Rules to Live By" in
the compensation system.
1. ALWAYS report your injury, to your supervisor or manager, AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, no matter what. Your employer must know about the injury before you can receive benefits. If you do not report your injury, or your pains, you open yourself to attacks later that the injury did not occur at work, or denial of responsibility for your injury by your employer or its insurance company.
2. Always document discussions with the insurance company. Right after you get off the phone, write a little note to the adjuster, or your supervisor telling them what you understood they said and asking them to correct you if you have the wrong understanding. At the very least, keep a calendar of all your injury related activities and maintain it faithfully.
3. Always tell the truth about where you hurt and how much. Do not exaggerate. Do not minimize. If you have shoulder pain, say you have shoulder pain, do not say you are "fine", even if it "socially acceptable" to do so. If you are hurting, say so. If it hurts your low back to bend down and touch your knees, say it hurts. If you can touch your toes, say you can touch your toes, do not pretend you can only touch your knees.
4. Always tell the truth about prior injuries. If you have had a prior injury and gone to seek medical treatment, the insurance company will find out about it. If you have lied to increase your benefits, you can go to jail for fraud.
5. Be patient.
Being injured is no fun. Dealing with insurance company personnel and your employer after an injury can be difficult, depending on the personalities. Help yourself get through it. Learn about your rights.