There is a lot of wrong going on here!
When you told your boss your hands hurt, she was required to give you a workers' compensation claim form within one work day if there was any chance your work caused the injury or made it worse. Every employer in California must have workers' compensation insurance and comply with workers' compensation law. The Division of Workers Compensation administers California's workers' compensation law and provides helpful information on its web site: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/InjuredWorker.htm. If your injury was caused or made worse by your work, you are most likely entitled to benefits including time off from work, money benefits, medical treatment, and more. Note it is unlawful to discriminate against an employee for being injured on the job, filing a workers' comp claim, or participating in the workers' comp system in any way.
You will be better off with a workers' compensation attorney. Workers' compensation attorneys are paid at the end of a case and get a small percentage of any permanent disability award. To find a workers' compensation attorney, look at the membership list of the California Applicant Attorneys Association (CAAA) http://caaa.org/cs/. CAAA is the strongest bar association in California for attorneys who represent injured workers.
It is unlawful for an employer to force an employee to give up a right or to quit in order to receive pay the employee earned. Your employer can and should be penalized for forcing this upon you. California's wage and hour laws are enforced by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE): http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/. The DLSE web site has great information. The DLSE will enforce wage and hour laws at no charge to you but you will be better served by an attorney who can handle several of your issues all together, and can devote more time to your case than an underfunded, understaffed government agency.
If you were forced to resign to get your wages or forced to resign because of your injury, you may have a wrongful termination case. You will need an attorney for this Possible remedies include lost wages, emotional distress damages, and more.
You may be protected by the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Government Code sections 12900, et seq. (FEHA), which is California's disability protection law, similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. sections 12101 et seq. (ADA), but more employee-friendly. If your employer has at least five employees and your medical condition constitutes a disability as defined by FEHA, you were entitled to reasonable accommodation if one was available (except in limited circumstances). Reasonable accommodation might include time off of work, changing the way some of your job is performed so you can perform the work without injury, or possibly transfer to a different job. Also, an employer cannot terminate you or force you out, or take any other adverse action against you, because of the disability. See my Avvo guides on the ADA: http://www.avvo.com/pages/show?category_id=6&permalink=disability-discrimination-in-employment and the differences between the ADA and FEHA: http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/employment-disability-protection-under-californias-fair-employment-and-housing-act-and-federal-ada?published=true.
If your employer has at least 50 employees who work within 75 miles of one another, and you have worked for the employer for at least one year (even if not consecutively), and if you worked at least 1,250 hours in the past year, you may be entitled to as much as 12 weeks of unpaid leave and then the right to return to your same job or a similar job at the end of your leave. This right is per the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. section 2101 et seq. (FMLA) and also the CFRA. See my guide: http://www.avvo.com/pages/show?category_id=6&permalink=family-and-medical-leave-fmla-summary-of-key-provisions.
Please see my comment below.
*** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***
No. I agree with Attorney Spencer. Under California law, you cannot be terminated if you made or were about to make a workers' compensation claim. It is also unlawful to force you to quit under these circumstances.
I suggest that you consult with an attorney who handles workers compensation and/or labor litigation as soon as possible.
The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author (who is only admitted to practice law in the State of California). For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.
The advice of the other attorneys especially about the worker compensation claim issue and the possibility of a potential claim under the Family & Medical Leave Act are very good. I handle many FMLA cases and if there is even a remote chance that an employees comments may entitle him/her to FMLA leave, it is the employer's duty to advice the employee of his right to apply for FMLA leave if he/she is eligible (worked for employer for at least 1 year and 1250 hours in the past year and the employer has at least 50 employees in a 75 mile radius of your primary work site). Please consult with a local attorney because you may have rights which can be protected. Also, you may need to consult with 2 attorneys; a workers compensation attorney because typically they confine their practices to that and a couple of other related areas and also a general employment litigation attorney who would be familiar with the FMLA and other federal or state employment rights.
I agree with Attorney Spencer. There is so much "wrong" going on here that you should immediately contact an attorney who specializes in these issues to ensure that your rights are fully protected.
Legal disclaimer: Avvo is a free service that enables you to obtain general information, not legal advice. My responses to questions on Avvo are not intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services. You can reach me at the website address provided to inquire whether my firm can be of assistance to you.
Your boss sounds like a scumbag who bought herself a heck of a lawsuit. If your facts are accurate, the question is not if you should sue, but which qualified attorney should take your case. There's a laundry list of violations here:
Failure to pay wages when due - Wages are due immediately when you are terminated. You would be entitled to a waiting time penalty equal to up to 30 days of your normal salary depending on how long your boss withheld your final paycheck.
Wrongful termination in violation of public policy - It is illegal to terminate someone based upon their being a member of a protected class, or their exercising certain rights as an employee. In this instance, it appears your boss fired you because of your perceived carpal tunnel disability, or because you took time off which you would be entitled to take off under the Family & Medical Leave Act or the California Family Rights Act. Termination for either reason would constitute a wrongful termination tort.
Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Employment and Housing Act - It is illegal to terminate anyone whom the employer knows or perceives to be disabled without first attempting to accommodate the employee's disability if such accommodation can be made without imposing an undue burden on the employer. Under both the federal law (ADA) and the state law (FEHA), your carpal tunnel syndrome would qualify as a disability.
You also have a right to seek workers compensation insurance benefits separate and apart from the the discrimination and wage and hour claims. An attorney who handles only workers comp. cases should be retained to handle the workers comp. lawsuit. An attorney who practices employment law generally or employment discrimination law specifically should be able to handle both the wage and hour and discrimination claims. You can also handle the issue of the unpaid wages yourself by directly filing a claim for the wages with your local office of the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement.
As you have described it, this is a case that most employment law attorneys would be jumping at a chance to handle. Because California allows for reimbursement of attorney's fees to employees who successfully prosecute wage and hour or statutory discrimination claims against employers, any attorney you find to represent you on these claims should handle the matter on contingency.