Voluntary Resignation Is Not Considered Termination

Numerous people have felt that when an applicant voluntarily resigns from employment and then claims a work related injury this would be governed by Labor Code section 3600 (a) (10). An appellate court has indicated that this section does not cover voluntary resignations.

The facts were apparently undisputed. The applicant was a truck driver. The applicant had a motor vehicle accident in the course and scope of his employment in August 1996. He reported the accident to the employer apparently at that time. What the facts don’t tell us is if the applicant claimed any injuries at that time. The facts do not state the applicant was given a claim form at the time of the accident.

The applicant voluntarily quit his employment in September 1996. The applicant apparently filed an application for adjudication of claim in June of 1997. This was ten months after the alleged injury and nine months after he voluntarily quit his job. This is the first time he alleged injury to his back from the August 1996 injury.

The Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) did not find the applicant to be a credible witness in regards to the accident or the industrial nature of his injuries. Obviously, the WCJ was considering that the alleged back injury was being claimed ten months after the injury. The facts do not disclose if the applicant ever saw a physician for his alleged back injury during those ten months. The WCJ denied benefits solely on the basis of 3600 (a) (10). The WCJ relied on the phrasing in the statute that says post termination “including voluntary layoff “. The WCJ believed that the section did not only apply to employer terminations or layoffs but also if the employee voluntarily resigned. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board did not agree with the WCJ.  The Board concluded that the statute did not apply to voluntary resignations.

The appellate court on appeal looked to the plain meaning of the statute itself. The appellate court reasoned that the essence of the statute dealt only with employer-initiated separations of employment. Since the statute did not have any references to employee-initiated separations the appellate court reasoned that employee-initiated separations were not meant to be part of this statute.  The appellate court finds that the statute does not cover employees who voluntarily resign. However, they did add parenthetically that they express no opinion on resignations which are constructive firings. It is assumed they are referring to the situation where the employee is given the prerogative to voluntarily resign before termination proceedings are initiated.

Case: CJS Company V. W.C.A.B. (Fong)

Harvey Brown
3501 Jamboree Rd. Suite 602
Newport Beach, CA 92660

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