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October 10, 2023

Can Californians Sue Employers for Chemical Exposure?

Legally reviewed by: Jessica Anvar Stotz, JD, MBA

Short answer: Yes, you can sue your employer for chemical exposure in California if an attorney believes you have a valid case.

Chemical exposure in the workplace is a significant concern for employees in California and across the United States. Exposure to hazardous chemicals on the job can lead to various health issues, including respiratory problems, skin conditions, and long-term conditions. In California, employees have legal rights when it comes to chemical exposure.

Reasons You Can Sue Your Employer in California for Chemical Exposure

  1. Negligence: If your employer neglected to implement necessary safety measures or supply adequate protective equipment, you have grounds for legal action. Negligence claims can arise from their failure to ensure a safe working environment.
  2. Violation of Safety Regulations: If your employer breached state or federal safety regulations concerning chemical exposure, you are entitled to pursue legal recourse. Employers must adhere to these regulations to maintain a secure workplace, and any violations can lead to legal consequences.

Reasons You CANNOT Sue Your Employer in California for Chemical Exposure

  1. Workers’ Compensation: In most instances, if you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, you are typically precluded from suing your employer for chemical exposure. Workers’ compensation is designed to offer financial assistance for workplace injuries and illnesses, including those resulting from chemical exposure.
  2. Exclusive Remedy Rule: California’s exclusive remedy rule generally restricts your ability to file a lawsuit against your employer for injuries or illnesses related to work if workers’ compensation is available. Exceptions to this rule come into play in cases involving intentional harm by the employer.

This information provides an overview, for personalized guidance regarding chemical exposure lawsuits in California, we recommend seeking guidance from legal experts.

Legal Duties of Your Employer

  • Overtime Pay: In California, employers are required to pay eligible employees’ overtime for hours worked beyond a certain threshold, typically 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week. Overtime pay is usually 1.5 times the regular rate of pay.
  • Meal and Rest Breaks: Employers must provide employees with meal and rest breaks as mandated by California labor laws. Failure to do so can result in penalties.
  • Anti-Discrimination Rights: Employers are legally obligated to refrain from discriminatory practices in hiring, promotion, and treatment of employees based on factors such as race, gender, age, disability, and more. Violations can lead to legal action.
  • Protection from Sexual Harassment: Employers must create a safe and harassment-free workplace environment, and employees have the right to report any instances of sexual harassment without retaliation.
  • Workplace Safety: Employers are responsible for ensuring a safe and healthy work environment, including providing appropriate safety training and equipment. Violations can lead to fines and legal action.

Your Rights as an Employee

  • Rest and Meal Breaks: As an employee, you have the right to take regular rest and meal breaks as mandated by California labor laws to ensure your well-being and productivity.
  • Safe and Healthy Jobs: You have the right to work in a safe and healthy environment. Employers must adhere to safety regulations to protect your well-being while on the job.
  • Taking Action without Being Retaliated Against: You can take action against workplace violations, such as reporting safety concerns or discrimination, without fear of retaliation from your employer.

These rights and duties are crucial to maintaining fair and respectful employment relationships in California. It’s essential for both employers and employees to understand and uphold these legal obligations and rights.

What You Should and Shouldn’t Do When Suing

The following are steps we recommend you should take when suing your employer for chemical exposure.

What You Should Do

  1. Consult with an Attorney: We recommend seeking legal counsel from an experienced attorney who specializes in the relevant area of law. They can provide guidance, assess the strength of your case, and represent your interests effectively in court.
  2. Gather Evidence: Collect all relevant evidence to support your claims. This includes documents, photographs, witness statements, and any other pertinent information that can strengthen your case.
  3. Follow Legal Procedures: Ensure you adhere to all legal procedures and deadlines, including filing the necessary paperwork correctly and attending court hearings as required. Failure to do so can harm your case.
  4. Consider Alternatives: Explore alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation or negotiation, to resolve the issue without going to court. These methods can often save time and money.

What You Shouldn’t Do

  1. Take Matters into Your Own Hands: Avoid taking any retaliatory or illegal actions against the other party. Let the legal process handle the dispute rather than resorting to self-help remedies.
  2. Ignore Legal Advice: Disregarding the advice of your attorney or failing to consult with one can be detrimental to your case. Always rely on legal professionals for guidance.
  3. Discuss the Case Publicly: Avoid discussing the details of your case on social media or with individuals not directly involved in the lawsuit. Such actions can be used against you in court.
  4. Delay Action: Procrastinating or delaying action in a legal matter can weaken your position. Be prompt in seeking legal remedies when necessary.

Understanding these do’s and don’ts can help you make informed decisions when pursuing or defending against a lawsuit.

chemical exposure ca

Types of Claims You Can Make

Workers’ Compensation If you are exposed to toxic chemicals while on the job, you can file a compensation claim. Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that provides medical expenses and lost wages to employees who are injured while performing their job duties. It is mandatory for all employers in California to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This type of claim is generally the primary recourse for workplace-related toxic exposure cases.
Personal Injury Lawsuit In certain situations, you may have the option to file a personal injury lawsuit if the toxic exposure resulted from someone’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing, and it occurred outside the scope of your job duties. This legal remedy allows you to seek compensation for damages such as medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost income. The eligibility for a personal injury lawsuit depends on factors like the source of the chemical exposure and who controlled the area where it occurred.
Third-Party Lawsuit In some cases, even if you file a workers’ compensation claim, you could also pursue a third-party lawsuit against parties other than your employer, such as manufacturers of toxic substances or equipment that contributed to the exposure. This can be a way to seek additional compensation beyond what workers’ compensation provides. It’s crucial to consult with an attorney to determine if such a lawsuit is viable.
Compliance Claim Employers are legally obligated to comply with safety regulations and standards regarding toxic substance exposure. If your employer fails to meet these standards, you may have a claim based on compliance violations. For example, if your employer does not monitor exposure levels as required by regulations, it could lead to compliance-related claims.

Get Connected with a Lawyer

LawLinq takes pride in being your trusted partner in connecting you with top-tier legal representation. Our commitment to helping you find the right attorney ensures that you receive the support and guidance you deserve during this challenging time. Contact LawLinq to get connected with a skilled attorney today.

About the Author

Jessica Anvar

California Consumer Litigation Attorney Jessica Anvar, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Lemon Law Experts California’s leading lemon law firm. She has multiple years’ worth of experience working with both state and federal lemon laws. Her practice focuses exclusively on consumer protection cases. Ms. Anvar received her J.D. from Loyola Law School. She also earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Loyola Marymount University. Jessica is very active in her local legal community and has helped thousands of clients across the state of California. She has an outstanding record as a true advocate for consumers.

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