You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit! (Now Hand Over the Workers’ Comp Benefits)
Does the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board take sides in the fast-food wars? Do the Commissioners, normally unbiased and committed to the law, take some special form of vengeance against the good people over at Carl’s Jr.? Undoubtedly, some night years ago saw a drive-thru order for curly fries erroneously and callously fulfilled with regular French fries. Perhaps a diet soda was served where a regular soda was ordered. And, who can forget the shame of a ketchup stain on a commissioner’s favorite robe?
This blog had occasion to report to its sharp-witted and kind-hearted readers the case of Bertha Chan v. Carl’s Jr., in which the WCAB held that the post-termination defense of Labor Code section 3208.3(e) did not bar Ms. Chan’s claim for cumulative trauma. Now, it appears that your humble blogger must once again report to his loyal and dedicated readers that the WCAB has again rejected poor Carl’s defense of a post-termination claim.
The case is that of Maria de Jesus Flores v. Carl’s Jr. The basic facts are these: Ms. Flores gave two weeks’ notice that she was quitting her job, but was fired before the two weeks had ended. Less than two weeks after her last day, applicant filed a claim for an alleged injury to her back, upper extremities, lower extremities, neck, head neurological system and psyche, allegedly sustained as a cumulative trauma.
The workers’ compensation Judge ordered applicant to take nothing, reasoning that she was let go by her employer and the post-termination defense barred her recovery. Applicant petitioned for reconsideration and the WCAB was happy to oblige, glaring angrily at Carl’s Jr.’s Answer from behind their respective Happy Meals.
The commissioners reasoned that an employee who voluntarily quits will not be barred by Labor Code section 3600(a)(10). The reasoning is fairly straightforward: the defense in question was intended to protect employers from angry former-employees seeking revenge for being fired, and when an employee voluntarily resigns that’s unlikely to be the case. After all, it’s the guy who gets dumped that’s bitter about the relationship, not the girl who dumped him. Well, it’s her loss… Ms. Flores’ loss for quitting, of course.
There are, of course cases, in which this logic would not hold – for whatever reason, Ms. Flores’ employer let her go early – they were entitled to more days of her labor and they didn’t want it. The facts that Ms. Flores was quitting and that Carl wanted her out suggest that there may have been some hard feeling after all.
In a typical employee-employer relationship, an employee could do some single act which would warrant an immediate termination of employment. The fact that the employee was already on the way out does not negate the reasoning behind the code section.
Carl, this blog wishes you the best of luck with the Court of Appeal! Hopefully, your fine cuisine will have more fans on the higher bench.