State of Cal. Dep’t of Rehabilitation v. WCAB, 30 Cal. 4th 1281 (2003)

Ronald Lauher worked as a rehabilitation counselor for the California Department of Rehabilitation for 25 years before submitting a claim for workers’ compensation benefits based on work-related stress and depression. After Lauher was diagnosed with Gerstmann’s Syndrome (a brain lesion that causes learning disabilities) and prescribed medication, his disability was considered permanent and stationary. Lauher contended that the Department discriminated against him in violation of Labor Code §132a by requiring that he use accrued sick and vacation time for absences to travel to and attend medical appointments. The WCAB affirmed the workers’ compensation judge’s order that Lauher was entitled to temporary disability indemnity (TDI) to compensate him for time he spent away from work obtaining medical treatment. The WCAB also required the Department to pay a penalty of 10 percent of the cost of all of Lauher’s past, present and future medical treatment and $10,000 for violating Section 132a. The Court of Appeal annulled the WCAB’s decision, and the California Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal’s order. The Supreme Court held that once Lauher’s injury had become permanent and stationary, he was not entitled to payment of TDI to reimburse him for wages lost while pursuing medical treatment. Furthermore, since Lauher had failed to show that he was treated any differently from employees without workers’ compensation injuries who were away from the workplace for medical treatment, there had been no discrimination within the meaning of Section 132a.