Injured employees should be aware of the ways that a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer can use California law to protect their rights
There are many different parts to California’s workers’ compensation laws. All of the parts work together to protect the rights of employees who are injured at work. A workers’ compensation lawyer at Santa Rosa’s Kneisler & Schondel can help injured workers obtain the benefits and protections of California law. It is important for employees to be aware of the laws, however, so that they know what to expect if they are injured on the job.
Payment of Benefits
In addition to having their medical bills paid, injured workers have the right to collect disability benefits if the injury causes them to miss more than three days of work. The two primary benefits are:
- Total Temporary Disability benefits (TTD), which cover two-thirds of the injured workers’ wages (subject to minimum and maximum payments) while the she is recovering from the injury.
- Permanent Disability benefits (PD), if a physician determines that the injured workers’ injury has reached its maximum state of healing, leaving her with permanent functional limitations.
Injured workers who cannot return to work because of a permanent impairment, and who are not offered modified or alternative work, may also be entitled to receive supplemental job displacement benefits.
The calculation of temporary disability payments is usually straightforward, although it can become more difficult when an injured worker has more than one source of income or earns compensation that varies from pay period to pay period. Calculating permanent disability benefits is more complex and often leads to disputes between the workers’ compensation insurance company and the injured worker.
There are also instances in which an employer disputes the employee’s entitlement to make a workers’ compensation claim. For example, an employer might assert that the employee’s injury is not job related or that no permanent disability resulted from it. Whenever issues involving entitlement to or the amount of benefits arise, a workers’ compensation attorney in Santa Rosa can help injured workers receive the benefits they deserve.
Protection Against Retaliation
An important section of California’s workers’ compensation law prohibits employers from firing an employee simply because they were injured at work. While employers can fire employees for legitimate reasons, even if they are injured, the injury itself is not a legitimate reason that justifies the decision to fire an employee.
California law also prohibits employers from retaliating against injured workers’ for making a workers’ compensation claim. Retaliation can consist of firing the injured worker or (as we discuss below) failing to reinstate the injured worker if the she is capable of returning to work after an injury.
Other acts, such as reducing an injured workers’ pay or denying a planned promotion, can also be considered to be retaliatory if they were motivated by the filing of a worker’s compensation claim. Any act that penalizes an injured worker for filing the claim may be viewed as retaliatory under California law.
Employers sometimes try to conceal their true motivation for penalizing an injured worker by alleging that they took that action for a legitimate reason. When that happens, a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer can try to establish that retaliation is the true motivation by demonstrating that the reason given by the employer were false.
Return to Work
Some laws help protect injured workers’ jobs when they return to their former jobs after being injured. Some exceptions are where:
- workers who suffer from a permanent impairment that makes them incapable of performing the essential functions of the job, and
- workers whose jobs have become unavailable, either because the position is no longer needed or the business had no choice but to replace the worker.
Both of those exceptions are sometimes used as excuses to deny an injured workers’ reinstatement to a former position. When the employer’s excuse for not reinstating the injured worker is false, a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer can help the injured worker win a return to work and possibly extra compensation by proving that the employer denied reinstatement with the intent to punish the injured worker for making a workers’ comp claim.
An employer may also offer modified or alternative work at a slightly lower rate of pay if a permanently injured worker is unable to perform the duties of his or her former job. Employers have an incentive to make that offer in order to avoid paying supplemental job displacement benefits.
If an injured worker is able to work but her doctor imposes restrictions or limitations on her work to allow for recovery, California law does not require the employer to accommodate those restrictions. However, if an employer does elect to accommodate an injured workers’ restrictions the employer must not assign work that would violate the restrictions. If the employer elects not to accommodate the work restrictions, then the injured worker will remain off work collecting temporary disability benefits until the doctor lifts the work restrictions.
Understanding the basics of the law is important, but when a dispute arises, being able to rely on the knowledge of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney is critical. The Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer at Kneisler & Schondel has years of experience fighting to protect the rights of injured workers. To discuss your claim, call us at (707) 542-5132 or submit a request for assistance by using our online contact form.