If your attorney handles civil litigation of disability discrimination cases, then he is your first option to obtain advice from. If not, he may have worked, before, with such attorneys. When you have parallel workers comp and civil cases, it helps that the attorneys work together during discovery and assessment of damages. If left to your own devices, you can look for experienced employment law attorneys at www.cela.org.
They say you get what you pay for, and this response is free, so take it for what it is worth. This is my opinion based on very limited information. My opinion should not be taken as legal advice. For true advice, we would require a confidential consultation where I would ask you questions and get your complete story. This is a public forum, so remember, nothing here is confidential. Nor am I your attorney. I do not know who you are and you have not hired me to provide any legal service. To do so would require us to meet and sign written retainer agreement. My responses are intended for general information only.
I agree with Michael. The first place you should turn in this situation is your workers compensation attorney. Ask him or her if you need another attorney for the disability discrimination suit. He or she probably frequently comes across the situation where his client has a lawsuit for discrimination alongside a workplace injury. Your attorney will know if you need another lawyer.
Secondly, if you have to hire another lawyer, be sure to inquire about the Fair Employment & Housing Act, which is similar to the EEOC. In California, attorneys primarily like to file discrimination lawsuits under FEHA because it has more favorable remedies than federal law. If you want to know more about disability discrimination, see my website's page on disability discrimination.
Since you are a State employee, you have a vested property right in your job that potentially offers more protection than private sector employees.
I would suggest that when you talk to any disability rights attorney, you make sure that the attorney has sufficient experience to handle the unique rules of disability rights for government employees. For example, if it is determined that you are unable to work, the State has a duty to submit your application for retirement benefits, and sometimes the State needs a legal "nudge" to follow their duties.
David A. Mallen
David A. Mallen offers answers on Avvo for general information only. This offer of free, general answers is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. If you need specific advice regarding your legal question, you should consult an attorney confidentially. Many experienced California labor and employment attorneys, including David A. Mallen offer no-risk legal consultations to employers and employees at no charge. David A. Mallen is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, as well as the California Labor Commissioner and the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. Failure to take legal action within the time periods prescribed by law could result in the loss of important legal rights and remedies.
Whenever an employee who has experienced a work-related injury finds him/herself without a job shortly thereafter, a prima facie case of discrimination exists, absent another legitimate explanation. Labor Code section 132 a makes it unlawful to discriminate against an employee due to a work related injury. These claims are, in my experienced, routinely filed as part of the underlying workers' compensation claim, whenever an injured worker is separated from work, regardless of the reason given by the employer. Additionally, many employers are unaware that firing an injured worker may also invite a much more serious legal claim, i.e., one for discrimination based on physical disability. The latter type of claim is available because a workers' comp injury often also qualifies the injured employee as "disabiled" under California law, if the injury affects a "life activity" (including work) and is permanent. For example, serious back injuries often qualify. If so, the act of terminating an injured worker can simultaneously constitute an act of discrimination based on the comp claim, as well as an act of disability discrimination. The latter, however, is tried in state court before a jury, in the absence of an enforceable arbitration policy. Thus, the employee may claim far greater damages, including those for emotional distress, punitive damages and attorneys' fees, which often dwarf those available before the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board. Also, employees fare far better before juries, because juries are typically comprised entirely, or mostly, of employees, not business owners or supervisors, and share a much stronger affinity for the plaintiff-employee. This is one powerful reason that employers are well-advised to consider mandatory arbitration policies.
You've received some excellent information already. I write to emphasize that your workers' compensation claim MUST be coordinated with any civil claim (discrimination, etc.) because the way in which the workers' compensation claim is settled may prevent you from pursuing a civil claim. I urge you not to automatically assume that your workers' compensation attorney knows enough about the civil law to guide you, much less represent you. Workers' compensation is a specialized area of law and most workers' compensation attorneys do not also handle disability or failure to accommodate claims.
To find a plaintiffs employment attorney in California, please go to the web site of the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA). CELA is the largest and most influential bar association in the state for attorneys who represent working people. The web site is www.cela.org. Click on "Find a CELA Member" and you can search by location and practice area. Many CELA attorneys represent clients throughout the state.
I hope you can resolve your situation and wish you the best.
twitter.com/MikaSpencer *** 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. ***