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California Labor Code Section 132a: Definition & Significance

Instructor: Ian Lord

Ian is a real estate investor, MBA, former health professions educator, and Air Force veteran.

In this lesson, we'll look at the protections and penalties stated in California Labor Code Section 132a regarding threats or acts of discrimination against employees who file workers' compensation claims.

California Labor Code Section 132a Protections

Some merchandise fell on Jim at his job and his leg was injured. He thinks he will be okay in the long run, but it hesitant to bring up the issue of workers' compensation because he has heard of employees being retaliated and discriminated against for it. Jim will be recovering for some time from his on-the-job injury, and his right to file for workers' comp is protected under state law.

Let's review the California laws protecting employees from retaliation for filing or testifying as a witness in a workers' compensation claim, as well as the penalties for employers and insurance companies for breaking the law.

Workers' compensation in California entitles Jim to medical care for his injuries, temporary and permanent disability benefits as needed, and possible vocational rehabilitation if he can no longer do his job. Other provisions include death benefits for his spouse, children, or other dependents if Jim dies from his injury.

Employers pay for workers' compensation insurance to provide this coverage. The trade off for this employer-provided benefit is that the employee cannot sue the employer for on the job injuries or illnesses. The State of California as a matter of legal policy prohibits any discrimination against employees who are injured on duty; discrimination can take the form of termination, demotion, or other adverse actions. These laws are codified in California Labor Code Section 132a.

Employer Penalties

If Jim's employer took any discriminatory adverse action against Jim for filing a workers' compensation claim, or because his claim resulted in an award or settlement, the employer would be guilty of a misdemeanor offense. The employer can be compelled to give Jim his job back, reimburse him for any lost benefits or pay, and increase his workers' compensation benefit by one half up a maximum of $10,000 extra. The employer must also reimburse the employee's cost of pursuing the claim by up to $250.

Additionally, if an employee were to testify on Jim's behalf as part of the claim that employee would also be protected from retaliation or the threat of adverse action. This is also a misdemeanor crime under which the employer can be required to reinstate that employee and pay any lost wages or benefits.

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