After a recovery from serious injury on the job, most employees want to put the experience behind them when they return to work. This can seem impossible if an employer starts retaliating in often-subtle ways — just because a worker claimed much-needed benefits that are granted by law.
Perhaps more disturbing, some employers use veiled threats to convince workers not to file a workers’ compensation claim, leaving them to find other ways to pay for medical care after a workplace accident.
Our Tuscaloosa workers’ compensation lawyers want to clarify that retaliation is illegal at both the state and federal level. It is important for workers to recognize the signs so they can seek the legal help they need to ensure their claims receive fair treatment.
Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim is a Right of Employment
With very few exceptions, individuals injured as a result of their employment have the right to file workers’ compensation claims. While most employers handle these claims fairly, some see a claim as a black mark on their record that increases the premiums they pay.
Perhaps this kind of thinking was a factor when a supervisor from the New York- and Connecticut-based Metro North railroad took advantage of the time spent driving an injured employee to the hospital to make threats of damaging write-ups on the employee’s record.
The injured employee was recording that conversation, according to the New Haven Register. That recording provided evidence of a direct violation of the Federal Railroad Safety Act. In a landmark federal case, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) imposed a punitive fine of $250,000 in December, 2014.
Although no information is available about any awards received directly by the employee, there is no doubt he deserved compensation, based on state workers’ compensation and federal railroad laws.
Retaliation Comes in Many Forms
In many cases, employers use subtle methods to retaliate against employees who file workers’ compensation claims, often after the employees return to work. The following are just a few examples:
• Finding an unreasonable degree of fault in work performance
• Failing to issue wage increases at review time
• Passing over deserving employees for promotion
• Firing or laying off workers based on false premises unconnected to their claims
While the Alabama Unemployment and Workers’ Compensation Manual confirms that filing workers’ compensation claims does not make workers immune from suspension or firing for good cause, it also states that termination cannot occur in retaliation. It further recommends that employees who believe they have been terminated for filing a claim can bring suit against their employers in Alabama Circuit Court. The first step is to get in touch with experienced workers’ compensation attorneys who can accurately assess the value of these cases.
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"After my husband was injured in a burn accident at work, we felt the accident could have been avoided. I was not sure where to start, but after careful research, we met with Justin Smith and shared our experience. From day one, we felt we were in good hands. Justin and Dell explained everything and kept us informed from start to finish. It was a complicated case that took an outside the box approach. Both Justin and Dell made us feel like part of the team."