One hundred years ago, there was a case involving a worker who was injured on the job. He had warned his employer of an unsafe condition in the factory, but the employer refused to do anything about it. When the condition injured the worker, he sued, but was denied any damages, because of the theory of assumption of the risk. If he did not want to be injured the court reasoned, he should have quit.
Sadly, the state of labor in the New Jersey and the U.S. does not seem to have advanced much in those 100 years. Recently, the federal government has found that the number of reported workers injured on the job has fallen since 2003. But the number of workers injured on the job may not have been reduced as much as the numbers indicate. Retaliation cases involving workers who have been fired for submitting a workers’ compensation claim have increased.
While U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has increased enforcement of safety rules, there is some indication that many workers may feel intimidated by so-called safety programs, and not report workplace injuries.
The Wall Street Journal reports of one employer that used a mirror and the statement, “You are now looking at the person most responsible for safety.” Of course, if you are not provided with necessary safety equipment, such a statement rings hollow.
Critics say this and other programs, such as providing prizes for lack of injuries at an entire workplace, foster an environment of peer pressure that causes workers to not report workplace accidents and injuries.
It is a violation of federal law if an employer retaliates against a worker for reporting an injury or filing a workers’ compensation claim. Speak with an attorney immediately if this occurs in your workplace.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Workplace Injuries Drop, but Claims of Employer Retaliation Rise,” James R. Hagerty, July 22, 2013