Automatic, Self-Imposed 10% Penalty for Late Payment of Disability Indemnity
Given the importance of disability indemnity in California workers' compensation, even the slightest delay in payment can be devastating to injured workers and their families. In that regard, the California Labor Code provides for an automatic, self-imposed 10% strict liability penalty against employers for the untimely payment of disability indemnity. Section 4650 of the Labor Code provides that if any temporary or permanent disability indemnity payment is not made on time, the amount of that untimely payment shall be increased by 10% automatically. That is, the 10% increase shall be applied to the late payment without application by the injured worker.
Unreasonable Delay or Refusal to Pay Compensation
Section 5814 of the Labor Code states that "[w]hen payment of compensation has been unreasonably delayed or refused, either prior to or subsequent to the issuance of an award, the amount of the payment unreasonably delayed or refused shall be increased by up to 25 percent or up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000), whichever is less." The penalty for unreasonable delay or refusal is not limited in applicability to a narrow set of benefits. Rather the payment of any benefits available to injured workers in California workers' compensation can be increased by application of this penalty provision (e.g., temporary disability indemnity, permanent disability indemnity, medical care, interest, death benefits).
Employer Serious & Willful Misconduct
Broadly speaking, California workers' compensation is a no-fault system. That is, workers' compensation benefits are generally available to employees whose injuries arise out of and in the course of their employment, regardless of fault. Not that the workers' compensation system ignores fault altogether. Section 4553 of the Labor Code provides for a 50% increase in compensation to injured workers when it is shown that the serious and willful misconduct of their employer was a contributing factor to their on the job injury or illness.
Discrimination Against Workers Injured in the Course and Scope of Employment
California law prohibits discrimination by employers and insurers against workers who are injured in the course and scope of their employment under section 132a of the Labor Code. The remedies available to injured workers are generous. A Workers' Compensation Judge may order any or all of the following: increased compensation by the lesser of 50% or $10,000, together with costs and expenses not to exceed $250; reinstatement; and/or reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits caused by discrimination.
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