The primary purpose of Workers Compensation benefits is to compensate employees for injuries they suffer while at work or performing a job-related activity, without needing to prove who was at fault for the injury. In exchange for these benefits, the covered employees agree not to file a lawsuit against their employer relating to those injuries. As useful as these benefits can be, if making a Workers Comp claim may lead to retaliation by your employer, the benefits may not seem worth the risk.
What is Workers Comp Retaliation?
The legal definition of retaliation (in the employment context) is basically taking an “adverse employment action” against an employee for “engaging in legally protected activity.” Filing a claim for a work-related injury, under the Worker’s Compensation Act, is considered a legally protected activity, because employees are legally authorized to file such claims. Therefore, the employee is protected from any negative consequences from his or her employer, simply because he filed a Workers Comp claim.
How prevalent is Workers Comp retaliation?
Some reports have indicated that retaliation by employers has become a serious problem. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the instances of workplace injuries has decreased by 30% over the last 10 years. This significant decrease has been attributed to various factors, including safer work conditions. Yet, some experts believe a major factor in the decrease of reported injuries is the increase in retaliation for making Workers Comp claims. It is believed that employers are taking more aggressive steps to discourage employees from reporting their injuries. Indeed, some statistics show that, although worker’s compensation claims have dropped, the number of worker’s compensation retaliation claims has doubled.
OSHA’s opinions about the causes of workplace injuries
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has reported that a substantial number of workplace injuries have gone unreported in recent years. OSHA’s investigations have found that most workplace injuries still arise out of unsafe working conditions, rather than employee negligence. For this reason, if an employee reports an injury, a subsequent investigation may lead to the company’s liability for fines and other violations.
Why do some employers retaliate?
Unfortunately, the response some employers have to workplace injuries is to blame the employee for the injury and challenge the claim. Some employers go so far as to punish employees for making a worker’s compensation claim. As a result, many employees are fearful of bringing worker’s compensation claims because of the potential negative consequences. This type of conduct by employers goes against the purpose and goals of the workers’ compensation system, which is to quickly provide relief to employees who are injured on the job.
If you have questions regarding retaliation, or any other Worker’s Compensation issues, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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