I have been on SDI for over 10 months due to a condition caused by a hostile work environment. I am classified as possessing a disability. I have lost a great deal of $$ in the difference between SDI and my regular pay, and have had to pay for treatment out of pocket. How can I recover this money?
Employment / Labor Attorney
The answer complex and depends on facts you have not provided. You say you are SDI, not workers compensation. That suggests you either did not claim the disability to be work related or the disability did not qualify as work related. If the disability is work related, you would have been entitled to seek a recovery through the workers compensation system that conceptually should have provided some compensation for loss of income based on the disability, however woeful that recovery might have been under the present system.
You refer to a hostile work environment. That is an often misused and misunderstood concept. Most "hostile" work environment do not give rise to actionable claims, other than a work related injury claim under workers compensation. In fact, most "hostile" work environments are generally not unlawful at all. An actionable "hostile work environment" is one where the employee is subjected to severe or pervasive unwelcomed comments or conduct that is based on the employee's membership in a protected class of people. It is not an actionable "hostile work environment" where you hate coming to work because your boss or co-workers are mean, rude, unreasonable or irrational. It only becomes actionable if the conduct directed at you or in your presence is because you are in a protected class. Race harassment, sex harassment, religious harassment, etc.
If your disability was caused by actionable harassment, then you may have a right to recover the lost income associated with your situation. However, you need to act quickly. To make a timely claim for unlawful workplace harassment, you need to file an administrative complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing within one year of the act about which you complain. If you are a federal government worker or fall into the small category of employees who cannot claim under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, you only had 300 days from the act from which you complain to make a claim to the EEOC under most federal statutes.
If you believe the workplace harassment was unlawful, it would be prudent for you to locate and consult with an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to explore your facts and determine your options. I would suggest you look either on this site in the Find a Lawyer section, or go to www.cela.org, the home page for the California Employment Lawyers Association, an organization whose members are dedicated to the representation of employees against their employers.
Good luck to you.
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Workers' Compensation Lawyer
I agree with Mr. Pedersen.