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Hurt at Work & Now Suffering Discrimination/Retaliation

This discrimination story unraveled in an unusual way. An employee represented by Mastagni Holstedt was injured while working a part-time job.  Her employer offered her a full-time job and a $200 gift card to not file a workers’ compensation claim.  However, the employee correctly filed a claim and sought medical treatment.  In response to the claim being filed the employer withdrew the full-time job offer but allowed the employee to keep the gift card (which she did not use). The employer then fired the employee.  The employee turned to Mastagni Holstedt for help.  Our firm helped the employee obtain compensation for the underlying injury; however, the issue of discrimination remained. Mastagni Holstedt argued on behalf of the employee that the employer committed discrimination by bribery, failing to extend a full-time job and by terminating the employee’s part-time job.  The case was decided in favor of our client under Labor Code section 132a. But what is that?

Labor Code section 132, subd.(a)(1) – “Any employer who discharges, or threatens to discharge, or in any manner discriminates against any employee because he or she has filed or made known his or her intention to file a claim for compensation with his or her employer or an application for adjudication, or because the employee has received a rating, award, or settlement, is guilty of a misdemeanor and the employee’s compensation shall be increased by one-half, but in no event more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), together with costs and expenses not in excess of two hundred fifty dollars ($250). Any such employee shall also be entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits caused by the acts of the employer.”

Stated another way, an employee must show they were subjected to “disadvantages not visited on other employees because they were injured.” Garcia v. St. John Knits, 2019 Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. LEXIS 177, *12. Here, not only did Mastagni Holstedt argue the employee was disadvantaged by termination of her part-time job, but also by “any manner of discrimination” manifested by bribery.

While successful on the merits of the case, the employer filed for dissolution of his corporation on the same day a Mandatory Settlement Conference was held prompting Mastagni Holstedt to invoke a legal theory termed, “Piercing the Corporate Veil.” By doing so, Mastagni Holstedt argued the owner of the corporation was personally liable notwithstanding the corporation’s limited liability because he was operating the corporation as his “alter ego” thereby using it as an artifice to defraud employees from codified Labor Code remedies and benefits. This is important because the employer, not the insurance carrier, is responsible for LC 132a liabilities.

At this stage the workers’ compensation Judge refrained from finding personal liability under the Piercing the Corporate Veil theory by finding a lack of jurisdiction to do so.  However, Mastagni Holstedt will not give up, and thus, we will argue the context of personal liability (as extended in other areas of the Labor Code) applies to Labor Code section 132a under a Piercing the Corporate Veil theory.  The future of this case will likely be a Petition for Reconsideration, possible Writ of Review, possible judgement of personal liability in the Superior Court of California and possible Sheriff attachments.

Regardless of where this particular case concludes, the key take away is that employees should not suffer retaliation for filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits due to suffering an injury on the job.  If you or someone you know is experiencing work place discrimination due to the pursuit of workers’ compensation benefits, please contact the law office of Mastagni Holstedt for a free consultation.

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