Workers’ compensation insurance exists for the protection of employed adults. Whether someone gets hurt because a coworker comes back after lunch drunk and causes a factory floor accident or they end up with carpal tunnel or a similar medical issue related to their job, they will likely require workers’ compensation benefits for their health care needs and to replace their lost wages.
Technically, filing a claim for workers’ compensation is a protected activity. That means that workers should not have to worry about their employers punishing them for seeking benefits. Unfortunately, retaliation still occurs in many workplaces despite being against the law.
What might workers’ compensation retaliation look like?
Losing your job because you need leave
Maybe your employer provides you with paid time off, or perhaps they do not. Even if you have paid leave, it may not cover your entire recovery. If you have been with the company for long enough and they have enough employees, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives many workers the right to take unpaid leave while undergoing treatment.
Unfortunately, especially if your injury is severe, you may not be able to fully return to work within the 12 weeks of medical leave typically available. Employers may sometimes fire workers because they are unavailable to work for an extended period of time. They may also demote workers, change their positions or cut their pay, all of which can also be retaliation.
A company not accommodating someone’s medical limitations
A worker pursuing workers’ compensation benefits likely has documentation from their primary care physician outlining their diagnosis and the recommended course of treatment.
Although the law does require that employers work with those who can do their jobs with certain accommodations, like assistive technology or a change in job duties, some businesses will instead refuse to work with employees. They may punish them for declining productivity levels even though those issues are a direct result of the worker’s injury.
If your employer has a history of being hostile toward those that assert their rights, it may benefit you to document your communication with them during the claims process in case they attempt to illegally retaliate against you later. Learning more about what may actually be employer retaliation can help you minimize the impact of a job injury on your life.