When it comes to workplace injuries, especially in high-risk industries such as construction and healthcare, there are many misconceptions and misunderstandings around what employers can and cannot do. It is important to understand some basic elements of the law that protect you in the event of a workplace injury.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has regulations that protect workers injured on the job. OSHA also has a program to protect workers against retaliation by an employer in the event that the employee reports an injury.
Suffering an injury and losing your job
One common misconception is that if you suffer an injury on the job, your employer cannot fire you. This is actually not true. If your injury prevents you from doing your job, your employer does have grounds to fire you. If other factors come into play that you believe may be discriminatory, the important factor to look at is the reason why your employer is firing you. If your employer is firing you because you cannot perform the work, you likely do not have a case to pursue.
Unlawful reasons for termination
However, your employer cannot fire you for reporting your workplace injury or seeking workers compensation. This is a case of retaliation. The law protects workers who suffer on-the-job injuries. This includes the possibility of filing a workers' compensation claim to obtain the money they need to pay for medical expenses and lost wages due to time off work.
OSHA has a program, the Whistleblower Protection Program, that protects workers from retaliation by their employers. This includes when employers deny benefits employees have a right to, such as workers compensation benefits, as well as unlawful termination as a retaliation measure. It is important that you know your rights as an employee, both on a federal and state level. If you do not know your rights, then you cannot exercise them. If you have concerns or questions you do not have the answers to, it is in your best interest to seek out professional legal guidance.