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Returning to work after an illness or injury can be stressful for anyone, but especially for someone with a history in the workers’ compensation system. Although it is illegal for an employer to deny you a job because of a previous workers’ comp claim, not all employers are upstanding and honest. If your former employer discouraged workers’ comp claims or fought to deny your benefits following a work-related injury, you may be particularly worried about what to reveal to a potential new employer, how to explain your employment gap, or how your previous workers’ comp claim will affect your future employment.   

To protect yourself from discrimination and to maximize your appeal to future employers, you’ll want to start by learning more about your legal rights and by following a few simple suggestions. 


The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has a guide for employers in regard to the types of questions they can and cannot ask potential new hires during the application process.

In regard to your prior workers’ compensation claim history, there are a few things you should know: 

  • It is illegal for an employer to ask an applicant about any medical condition or mental or physical disability.
  • It is illegal for an employer to ask an applicant about previous worker’s compensation claims.
  • It is illegal for an employer to refuse to hire an applicant based on a previous injury or disabling condition. 
  • It is legal for a prospective employer to ask if an applicant can fulfill the job-related functions. 
  • Once a job offer has been made, it is legal for the employer to require a medical or psychological exam as long as it 1) is job-related and necessary for the business, and 2) is required of all employees in the same job classification.

It is important that you understand your legal rights during the application process, particularly in regard to questions about your work-related injury or your workers’ compensation claim. But you should also know that your workers’ comp history may come to light down the road. 


It is illegal for employers to screen job candidates for prior workers’ compensation claims. Background checks are legal, however, and although initial workers’ comp claims are not public record, appealed claims are. A background check could reveal any prior claims you had that were denied and went to the appeals board or any legal actions you took against former employers. A prospective employer can access your records through the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) only if the work-related injury would affect your ability to perform the essential functions of the position.

Your workers’ compensation claim records are only accessible to a future employer after you have been offered employment. It is illegal for the employer to rescind the job offer based on unsubstantiated fears of future injury or increased insurance premiums.  This would be considered hiring discrimination and could be grounds for a lawsuit.


Most employers understand that workers’ compensation insurance is a standard business expense and that the system is set up to protect the rights of everyone involved. If you have a workers’ comp history, an upstanding prospective employer should not hold it against you. In most cases, filing a workers’ compensation claim will not limit your employment opportunities.

However, there are a few smart steps you can take when filing your workers’ comp claim and again later when applying for new jobs. 

  • When you file a workers’ comp claim, no matter how you feel about your employer, it’s important to avoid personal attacks on his or her reputation or integrity. In the event that a prospective employer gains access to your workers’ compensation records, anything vindictive or negative you say or do in the process could work against you in the search for future employment. 
  • Honesty is crucial. Avoid exaggerations and overly emotional statements to your employer, the claims adjuster, your medical providers, and anyone else involved in your case. Stick to the facts. 
  • During the application process, be sure to only apply for work you have been cleared for by your doctor and to remain honest about your ability to perform the job duties required. If it is revealed that you withheld information or were not cleared for the assigned duties, it could have a negative impact on your job prospects. 


People are people, and even though it’s illegal to discriminate, some employers don’t like workers’ compensation claims. It’s understandable if you’re concerned about how filing a workers’ comp claim will affect your future employment. The best way to ensure that it does not is to hire a workers’ comp lawyer who can help you navigate the workers’ compensation system and ensure that your record maximizes your future employment opportunities.

At The Law Office of Matthew Russell, we’ve been in the business of helping injured workers for a collective 45 years.  We know what we’re doing, and we’ll be there for you at every step in the process. Call (619) 544-1506 for a free consultation today. 

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