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Can My Employer Lower My Pay If I am Injured at Work?


If an employee is injured on the job, filing for workers’ compensation can provide much-needed financial assistance during the recovery process. Since injuries may inhibit an employee’s ability to work to some degree, it is important for employers to make reasonable accommodations for injured workers. However, employers may sometimes seek to retaliate against an employee because he or she filed for workers’ compensation. Is it legal for an employer to lower the wages of an injured employee?

Here’s what you need to know:

Understanding Employer Retaliation Laws in California

In the state of California, as well as many other states, it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. If you have been injured at work and filed for workers’ comp, you have the right to receive fair treatment by your employer. Unfair discrimination or punishment for filing a workers’ compensation claim is illegal.

Retaliation may include:

  • Lowering the employee’s wages or salary
  • Firing the employee
  • Threatening to fire the employee
  • Cutting the employee’s hours
  • Disciplining the employee without grounds
  • Taking other negative actions against the employee

These actions are illegal when taken against an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. However, an employer still has the right to operate a business and perform actions under legitimate business reasons. For example, if your employer is cutting the hours or reducing the wages of all employees equally, you cannot argue that you are receiving unfair retaliation for filing a workers’ comp claim. However, if your employer seems to be singling you out for negative actions, and is lowering your wages without reason, you may be able to prove illegal retaliation.

Disability Discrimination Laws

The Americans with Disability Act, as well as other federal laws, prohibit discrimination against employees who are disabled. This means, if a worker is injured on the job and suffers a disability, but is able to return to work, an employer may not fire, lower the wages, or otherwise retaliate against the employee. In fact, employers must make reasonable accommodations for a disabled worker, as long as is does not cause “undue hardship” to the employer.

If an employee is able to perform the necessary duties of the job, he or she should be able to continue working as before. However, if the employer lowers the salary, cuts the hours, or makes it unreasonably difficult for the employee to perform essential tasks of the position, these actions are illegal. Paying an employee less just because he or she is disabled goes against federal disability and employment laws.

Options for Injured Workers & Their Employers

Under workers’ compensation laws, injured employees may return to work under “light duty.” This refers to their original position (or similar position) with lowered physical requirements, such as a desk job. Sometimes, however, employers want to reduce the employee’s pay because of the lighter work load.

If an employee is working in a temporary station at a limited capacity, this may warrant a lower wage. However, employers must reinstate the injured worker to his or her original position and payment as soon as possible. An employer may pay a lower wage thinking that the workers’ compensation payments will make up the difference. However, this may be impossible due to the state’s maximum compensation rates. Thus, employers have a duty to provide fair wages to injured workers.

What Can You Do If You Have Suffered Unfair Retaliation?

Under the California Labor Code 132a, it is illegal for employers to retaliate against injured employees who have filed workers’ compensation claims. In fact, employment retaliation based on workers’ compensation is a misdemeanor criminal offense. If your employer has lowered your wages or otherwise retaliated against you because you filed a workers’ comp claim, you may pursue further compensation. This includes a 50% increase of your workers’ compensation benefits, up to $10,000. You may also be able to get payment for lost wages, reduced hours, and attorneys’ fees (up to $250).

Call Our Orange County Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Today at (800) 980-6905

With more than $300 million recovered in settlements for our clients, Alvandi Law Group, P.C. can provide efficient legal services. If you have been injured on the job, our firm can represent your rights throughout the process. We can help you file a workers compensation claim, and can also build a case against unfair retaliation by your employer. Whatever your situation, our Orange County workers’ compensation lawyers can answer your questions every step of the way.

Contact us today to discuss your case with a knowledgeable attorney. We offer free initial consultations to all prospective clients.

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