From a slip-and-fall on an icy company parking lot resulting in broken bones, to swollen wrists and hands from working in a plant, employees frequently suffer injuries on their jobs. However, many of them fear they will lose their jobs if they report their injuries. If they have sustained an injury on the job and need legal help to get benefits, this article outlines the steps to do so.
Because of unstable economic conditions which have caused massive layoffs in recent years, people who have jobs are afraid of losing them. So, workers believe they need to do whatever they can to keep their jobs, even if it means working in pain. Also, according to a worker's comp attorney, those hurt on the job often don't know what benefits they are entitled to receiving.
A 2009 report of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that workers did not report their job-related injuries because they were afraid of being fired or disciplined for reporting their injury. What's more, employers did not report their workers' injuries, in part, because they were afraid that their workers' compensation costs would increase. The report, based on audits of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also noted that health practitioners said they felt pressured by both employers and workers to “play down” the extent of a worker's injury.
Employers contest workers’ injuries
Some employers are quick to follow the lead of their insurance companies and contend with workers over their injuries and threaten to fire them. Workers are protected under federal law from being fired for reporting an injury and filing workers’ compensation claims; but some employers defy the law and fire employees anyway.
At the same time, insurance companies sometimes deny workers' medical treatment, leaving workers' to pay expensive medical bills on their own.
Action steps to take
Employees who find themselves in these situations have options other than working in pain:
1. Seek legal advice from a workers' compensation or personal injury attorney
Lawyers will bring an employers’ attention to the state and federal labor laws they are violating when they fire employees or deny them accommodations for their work-related injury on the job and need legal help to get benefits. If employers continue to violate labor laws, employees represented by attorneys can file legal claims against the company.
2. File a workers' compensation claim
Workers' compensation is an insurance that covers an employee's lost wages, medical and rehabilitation costs if they are injured on the job. While workers can file this claim on their own, without proper documentation or if forms are not filled out correctly, employers will deny the claim. It's recommended that employees contact a workers' compensation attorney prior to filing a claim.
3. Get a second or third medical opinion
In some instances, employers want workers to go to the “company doctor” for treatment, knowing that the diagnosis will not be serious. Workers should also seek treatment from their personal doctor whose diagnosis may differ from the company's doctor. Workers who can afford the out-of-pocket expense can get a third opinion from a health care provider. However, workers should be aware that their insurance company may not pay for this visit.
You Bring Home More Than a Paycheck
Don’t go back to work early when you are supposed to stay home until the doctor releases you. Don’t perform heavy or medium duty once you’re there when you were given specific guidelines to stay on light duty, also. Just because you are getting pressure (or imagined pressure because you’re self-conscious) from your supervisor or coworkers doesn’t mean you should go against the doctor’s recommendations–so break the cycle and quit making excuses.
Injuries often happen a little at a time, rather than all at once. If you notice any signs of sprains, strains, or a suspected worsening or new injury, report it to your workplace supervisor, and make sure they fill out an incident report. After that, it is strongly recommended that you have a discussion with your lawyer to make sure your rights are protected.
Your Employer Must Provide a Safe Workplace
Make sure the place of employment fixes a job that is unsafe. According to OSHA it is your employer’s responsibility to ensure that your workplace is free from recognized hazards, and to comply with guidelines, standards, rules, and regulation outlined in the OSH Act.
Workers do not have to suffer pain in silence in fear of their jobs. While there is no guarantee that they will not get fired for taking action, the chances of that occurring are lessened when they have an attorney who advocates on their behalf to make sure they receive the benefits to which they are entitled under the law.