Sometimes we receive a call asking if an employee can be fired while they are out on worker’s compensation disability. For a number of years, there was a rumor that “You can’t be fired while you’re on worker’s comp.” That is not correct.
YES, an employer can fire you after you have an injury at work. However, if you were fired in retaliation for reporting a work injury, it could be a discriminatory action prohibited by the California Labor Code.
Generally California is an at-will employment state. That means that you can be fired for any reason, or no reason at all. Having an injury at work does not protect you from layoffs, business closures, or a termination for cause. If you are unable to work according to your doctor, you are paid temporary disability (wage loss) by the insurance company. You are no longer collecting a paycheck from your employer, but you remain an employee. You will continue to accrue sick time pursuant to California’s Sick Leave laws, but you will not continue to accrue vacation time. More information on California’s legally-mandated sick time laws for employers can be found here: FAQ about California’s Sick Leave Laws