Discrimination for Filing a Workers' Compensation Claim (WA State)

Discrimination for Filing a Workers' Compensation Claim (WA State)

Under Washington State workers' compensation laws, may an employer discriminate against an employee for filing a workers' compensation claim? Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


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THE WASHINGTON INDUSTRIAL INSURANCE ACT ("ACT")

"Washington's Industrial Insurance Act provides that '[n]o employer may discharge or in any manner discriminate against any employee because such employee has filed or communicated to the employer an intent to file a claim for compensation or exercises any rights provided under this title.'" Robel v. Roundup Corporation, 148 Wn.2d 35, 48-49 (Wash 2002) (citing RCW 51.48.025(1)) (alteration in original) (emphasis added). 

The relevant law, RCW 51.48.025(1), states as follows:

Retaliation by employer prohibited—Investigation—Remedies.

(1) No employer may discharge or in any manner discriminate against any employee because such employee has filed or communicated to the employer an intent to file a claim for compensation or exercises any rights provided under this title. However, nothing in this section prevents an employer from taking any action against a worker for other reasons including, but not limited to, the worker's failure to observe health or safety standards adopted by the employer, or the frequency or nature of the worker's job-related accidents.

Id. (emphasis added).

THE COMPLAINT PROCESS

Under the Act, "[a]ny employee who believes that he or she has been discharged or otherwise discriminated against by an employer in violation of this section may file a complaint with the director alleging discrimination within ninety days of the date of the alleged violation." RCW 51.48.025(2) (emphasis added). In this case, the term "'Director' means the director of labor and industries." RCW 51.08.060.

Accordingly, "[u]pon receipt of such complaint, the director shall cause an investigation to be made as the director deems appropriate. Within ninety days of the receipt of a complaint filed under this section, the director shall notify the complainant of his or her determination." Id. 

"If upon such investigation, it is determined that this section has been violated, the director shall bring an action in the superior court of the county in which the violation is alleged to have occurred." Id.

RIGHT OF PRIVATE ACTION

However, "[i]f the director determines that this section has not been violated, the employee may institute the action on his or her own behalf." RCW 51.48.025(3).

Additional legal theories may form the basis for relief. Speak to a knowledgeable employment attorney to learn more.

REMEDIES

"In any action brought under this section, the superior court shall have jurisdiction, for cause shown, to restrain violations of subsection (1) of this section and to order all appropriate relief including rehiring or reinstatement of the employee with back pay." RCW 51.48.025(4) (referring to RCW 51.48.025(1)).


LEARN MORE

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State Employment Discrimination Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Please note: the information contained in this article is not offered as legal advice and will not form an attorney-client relationship with either this author or Williams Law Group; please see our DISCLAIMER.

–gw

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