Crown Appliance v. WCAB, 115 Cal. App. 4th 620 (2004)

Crown Appliance petitioned the Court of Appeal for a writ of review, following a determination by the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) that Crown had discriminated against its employee, Morton Wong, for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Wong sustained an industrial injury to his left elbow and back while employed as a delivery driver and appliance installer for Crown. Wong testified at the WCAB hearing that his rapport with Mary Sanchez, the owner of Crown, changed after he returned to light duty at Crown due to his injuries. Among other things, Sanchez complained about Wong’s performance, excluded him from monthly employee meetings and fired him for allegedly using “bad language” in front of a customer. Sanchez testified that Wong’s work performance while he was on light duty was unsatisfactory, but she believed that she could not fire him until he returned to regular duty. The WCAB affirmed the workers’ compensation judge’s determination that Crown had violated Labor Code Section 132a, which was based on the judge’s critical assessment of Sanchez’s testimony that Wong had been terminated as a result of his poor performance and customer complaints about him. The Court of Appeal found Crown’s petition for writ of review “indisputably without merit” and, therefore, remanded the matter back to the WCAB so that it could make a supplemental award of reasonable attorney’s fees to Wong’s attorneys.