Home > 132a, 3208.3, Defenses > A Pro-Per Denial of Benefits

A Pro-Per Denial of Benefits

Applicant Massoud Kaabinejadian sustained a devastating psychiatric injury and was then persecuted by his employer for reporting said injury, which resulted in him courageously and rightly filing a workers’ compensation claim and a Labor Code section 132a petition as well.

He was so righteous and justified, he needed no attorney to plead his case.  To his shock and dismay, and to the shame of California’s workers’ compensation system, his case failed because of one missing and yet totally unnecessary element.  As discovery and trial revealed, Mr. Kaabinejadian’s case lacked that hairline tether connecting his legal theory to the law.

In the case of Kaabinejadian v. Rabobank and Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, applicant was hired as a senior vice president of credit at employer Rabobank.  Applicant’s job was to review loan applications and make recommendations to approve (or not approve) the loans.

After several months of friction in which applicant repeatedly denied loans previously approved by subordinate loan officers, applicant’s superiors decided that it was time to let this less-than-six month employee go.  At the time of this decision, applicant was already scheduled to meet with his superiors at another office location to participate in new-employee interviews.  His superiors decided to terminate his employment at the time of his arrival, rather than have him make a separate trip or to go to his office location.

The Workers’ Compensation Judge first noted that applicant was pleading his psychiatric injury as a cumulative trauma, allegedly incurred from the first day worked (April 3, 2006) to the last day worked (July 5, 2006) and “continuing thereafter.”  Given that this provided less than six months of employment, the WCJ correctly reasoned that applicant’s psyche claim could only proceed if it was the result of a “sudden and extraordinary employment condition,” which a cumulative trauma could not be.

In other words:

–it can’t be a generic psyche injury because applicant was not employed for at least six months, so his claim was barred by Labor Code section 3208.3;

–it couldn’t be “sudden and extraordinary” because it was a cumulative trauma; and

–if it was a specific injury and incorrectly plead as a cumulative trauma, the only specific injury could have been the termination of employment, which the WCJ described as part of “normal, regular or routine exchanges between employees and the employer … [b]assically, [applicant] was particularly upset and offended by the way in which he was terminated.”

Regarding the 132a claim, the WCJ reminded applicant that the burden is on the employee to prove discrimination, and documentation established the pre-existing intent to fire applicant well before any claim of injury was made.

The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board was no more generous with defendant’s money than the WCJ had been, denying applicant’s petition for reconsideration and incorporating the WCJ’s report.

Categories: 132a, 3208.3, Defenses
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