County of San Luis Obispo v. WCAB, 133 Cal. App. 4th 641 (2005)

While working as a mental health therapist for the County of San Luis Obispo, Art Martinez sustained injuries to his neck, spine, wrist and shoulder when he was assaulted by a violent patient. When Martinez returned to work three years later, he was placed in a different job at a different facility serving emotionally disturbed teenagers. Before his return, Martinez’s surgeon opined that Martinez’s injury did not preclude him from physically restraining combative patients. Several months later, after he had returned to work, Martinez selected a different doctor to serve as a qualified medical examiner who determined that “if [Martinez’s] job involves the potential for physical altercation, then he should not be doing that job.” In light of the new work restrictions from Martinez’s new physicians, the County advised Martinez not to report to work until further notice. In response, Martinez filed a petition for penalty under California Labor Code § 132a, alleging that he had been discriminated against in retaliation for having received a permanent disability award. The workers’ compensation judge and the WCAB agreed and ordered Martinez reinstated and further ordered the County to pay a $10,000 penalty. The Court of Appeal reversed the WCAB, holding that there was no evidence that Martinez proved he had been singled out for disadvantageous treatment or that the County did not have a reasonable belief at the time of the termination that Martinez would endanger himself or others given his disability. Cf. Jackson v. WCAB, 133 Cal. App. 4th 965 (2005) (WCAB erred in determining that correctional officer’s fatal heart attack was unrelated to his employment).