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The Difference Between Workers’ Compensation And Employment Law

Despite their shared focus on employees and the workplace, employment law and workers’ compensation law are distinct branches of the law. Workers’ compensation law surrounds on-the-job injury claims whereas employment law is related to how you are treated within the workplace.

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Workers’ Compensation Law

At Emery | Reddy, PLLC we know how difficult it can be for work injury victims and their families during this time. We are committed to supporting our clients throughout the legal process in order to provide the peace of mind necessary for a full recovery. To better understand how we can help you, it is important to understand exactly what workers’ compensation is in Washington State.

What Is Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to injured workers. In Washington State, it is handled by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), an agency that oversees distributing workers’ compensation benefits to employees who are injured at work or contract an occupational illness while performing their job.

Workers’ Compensation 101: Know Your Rights Video Explainers

Workers’ Compensation 101: Know Your Rights FAQ

Employment Law

Every day, hardworking employees across Washington State become victims of employment law violations. This can leave you feeling ashamed, confused, angry, anxious, and afraid. Often, employees feel like they can’t say anything, or they may lose their job or ruin their careers. If you are experiencing issues at work due to harassment, discrimination, wage issues, or any other violation of your worker’s rights, call the legal team at Emery | Reddy today.

Most Common Employment Law Violations

Examples of employment law violations include:

  • Wage and overtime violations: Everyone deserves to be paid a fair wage and on time. Unfortunately, some employers disregard Washington State employment laws and don’t pay their employees what they are owed, resulting in wage and hour violations.
  • Non-competes: If you signed a non-compete after January 1, 2020, you’re entitled to compensation. Contact the experienced employment law team at Emery | Reddy, PLLC today to find out more.
  • Violations of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA): Many employers don’t realize that their workers do not have to specifically ask for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. Employees are not required to mention the FMLA when requesting leave. In fact, assuming adequate notice, simply verbally stating a need for leave is enough.
  • Violations of the Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (WPFML): Many employees are entitled to protected paid time off under WPFML, whether it’s for their own serious health condition, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or to care for a newborn or adopted child. Employers cannot threaten or take disciplinary action against any employee who seeks information or requests paid time off through WPFML.
  • Discrimination: Washington State law protects all people from discriminatory and unfair practices in the workplace. Unfortunately, many employers participate in workplace discrimination, sometimes unknowingly, against employees and job applicants.
  • Wrongful termination: Being let go from a job impacts every part of your life—from the financial to the professional and emotional. However employees discharged for unlawful reasons can take action in their defense.
  • Violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): If you request a reasonable accommodation, your employer must work with you to come up with a solution that allows you to continue working. However, few employers know the law in this area, and many others refuse to follow it.
  • Privacy and data breaches: If a business loses customer data in a cyberattack and further investigation reveals it was because of poor cybersecurity systems, it could potentially be sued in a class action lawsuit.
  • Sexual harassment: Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of discrimination that violates both federal and Washington State laws. Unfortunately, it is one of the most widespread and detrimental types of discrimination and remains common in both small and large companies.
  • Whistleblower Retaliation: Federal laws ensure that workers who experience retaliation from their employers after reporting, also known as whistleblowing, something that is unsafe, illegal, or unethical in their place of work are provided assistance.
  • Labor union disputes: Unions sometimes fail to enforce the Collective Bargaining Agreement on behalf of their members or discriminate against individual members leading to labor union disputes. This contract usually regulates wages, work schedules, job duties, benefits, and other employment issues such as termination. 

Seattle L&I attorneys Tim Emery and Patrick Reddy of Emery Reddy walking in front of the Seattle Courthouse

Your Workers’ Compensation L&I Claim Is Worth More If You Also Have An Employment Law Claim

A significant number of L&I workers’ compensation claims often involve additional legal claims such as employment law or third-party claims. Many people file their claims without seeking representation from a Seattle L&I attorney and thus never discover that in addition to their L&I claim, they may be missing out on the ability to file an employment law claim or a third-party claim. Pursuing additional legal action has the potential to significantly increase a claim’s overall compensation.

What Is An Employment Law Claim?

Many injured workers find that their employer has taken, or plans to take, adverse action against them because they filed an L&I claim or they are out of work. You can file a lawsuit against your employer for several reasons, including retaliation, wrongful termination, disability discrimination, or unpaid wages. A Seattle L&I attorney who is experienced in both L&I workers’ compensation law and employment law can help you with your L&I claim while simultaneously filing a federal or state law claim for the violation of workers’ rights by your employer.

What Is A Third-Party Claim?

A third-party claim is one in which someone other than your employer or co-worker is responsible for your injury. If you have been injured on the job due to someone else’s actions or negligence, you may be entitled to additional compensation through a third-party claim, which combines your L&I claim with a personal injury claim using the same facts.

Unlike workers’ compensation payments, there is no limit to the amount of compensation an injured worker may seek in third-party damages.

Who Is At Fault For A Workplace Injury?

L&I is a no-fault system, ensuring compensation for any workplace injury. However, if a third party is involved in causing the injury, you may be able to pursue legal action against them for additional compensation under third-party claims.

Want More Information?

Workers’ Rights

As a Washington State employee, you are entitled to several protections and benefits under State and federal laws.

L&I Workers’ Compensation Claims

The Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) administers its own workers’ compensation benefits, either through a public State Fund (covering two-thirds of Washington State workers) or through self-insured employers (covering one-third of Washington State workers).

Workplace Discrimination

Washington State law protects all people from discriminatory and unfair practices in the workplace.

Meet The Team

The Seattle L&I attorneys and employment law attorneys at Emery | Reddy, PLLC are passionate about helping workers. In fact, We Help Workers® is our motto and what drives us every day.

We know how companies think, and we understand the tactics they use. Our Seattle L&I attorneys and employment law attorneys use that knowledge coupled with over two decades of experience to help our clients get access to the benefits to which they are legally entitled and hold employers accountable when they break the law.

If you’re struggling with an employment law issue, injury, or L&I claim, please call us and see how Emery | Reddy can help you today.

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Timothy W. Emery

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Patrick B. Reddy

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Karolina S. Arthur

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Paul Cipriani, Jr.

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