Injured Employee Rights

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Injured American workers have the guaranteed right to have an income they can live on. Federal and state laws enable workers injured on the job or off the job to return to work or receive compensation. Employers cannot deny you your job and an income because you are injured.


Your rights depend on whether the injury was caused on the job. A worker injured on the job has a right to workers' compensation benefits, but not a right to sue for benefits. If your employer does not carry workers' compensation insurance you have a right to sue your employer in civil court for compensation. In California, a worker also can claim for disability benefits from California's Uninsured Employers Fund. Workers injured off the job have a right to disability insurance and a right to sue the employer in civil court for employment, pay or accommodation.

Workers' Compensation

The first social insurance for injured workers is a state workers' compensation program. Employers are required to carry this insurance to pay for medical costs, compensation payments and death benefits. California, in addition, guarantees vocational training to workers who are unable to work. If your employer does have the insurance, you do not have the right to sue. Workers' Compensation is a no fault insurance system. You do not need to prove your employer caused the injury.

Disability Insurance

For a worker injured off the job, there are four types of disability insurance. If the disability prevents you from working, the first right you have is to make a claim for disability benefits under a disability insurance policy. Workers on unemployment insurance can make a claim for state unemployment disability payments. Social security disability benefits are available under the federal Social Security Act. Last, you might be eligible for a state disability insurance program.


Workers disabled by injuries are protected against disability discrimination. If an employer discriminates against you by denying employment, a pay increase or leave, you can report the discrimination to the Equal Opportunity Commission, which enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Upon an EEOC decision to not settle and send a Right to Sue letter, you can sue your employer. If the disability prevents one of your major life activities such as lifting weight, the Americans with Disabilities Act Title I protects you against discrimination. A claim under the ADA can be filed with the EEOC.

Accommodation and Retaliation

Employers are required to treat you as a worker with a limited ability. An employer cannot ask about a disability, except to know your ability to perform the work and how to accommodate you. If they fail to accommodate your injuries to enable you to work, and a discussion with the EEOC does not provide a solution, this failure to accommodate can be a reason to sue. If, instead, the employer treats you as a problem because of your injuries and a claim for benefits, and an agreement to end the mistreatment is not reached, you have a right to sue for retaliation.



About the Author

Adam Benjamin Pollack is a San Diego native dedicated to the great sentences on civil society. He authored the Subchapter S Report to tell legal news for the American Bankers Association. He holds a Juris Doctor from Indiana University and a Master of Public Policy from University of California, Berkeley.