Workers’ Compensation Sole Remedy in Workplace?

Insurance Journal reports that the California Court of Appeals has ruled that claims of assault and battery and emotional distress are barred by the workers’ compensation exclusivity rule, meaning that workers’ compensation is the only remedy for injuries that occur in the workplace.

In Kim C. Jones v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation et. al., the court ruled that Jones, an African-American employee, did not present evidence of triable issues of material fact. Jones claimed that while working as a correctional officer, she faced a hostile work environment due to gender discrimination, race discrimination, sexual harassment and unlawful retaliation by the male correctional officers. She also alleged she had suffered assault and battery, international infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent supervision and retention of employees.

After an altercation with a male employee, Jones reported pain in her neck and right wrist and shoulder, for which she received medical care. Jones then filed complaints with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

The court ruled that Jones did not present sufficient evidence that her race or gender was the basis for her claims of adverse actions, discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation, negating her FEHA claim. Additionally, the court believed that Jones’ complaints did not meet FEHA definitions of an abusive working environment that is “permeated with ‘discriminatory intimidation, ridicule and insult’ that is ‘sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment.”

Ultimately, the court noted that Jones’ claims for emotional distress must be addressed by workers’ compensation, limiting her recovery only to medical-related expenses.

Source: California Courts