Every worker has the legal right to seek workers' compensation when injured on the job. Whether eligible for this compensation or not, no worker should face retaliation for making a claim. Sadly, many hesitate to file due to fears of repercussions. Even though it's unlawful for employers to retaliate, such as threatening termination, reducing hours, or fostering a hostile work environment, these situations unfortunately arise. Our friends at Cohen & Cohen offer five strategies to tackle this retaliation below.
1. Know Your Rights
Familiarizing yourself with your rights as an employee is crucial. While deep legal expertise isn't required, being aware of the fundamental rights and laws specific to your region or profession can bolster your confidence when filing for workers’ compensation.
2. Maintain Detailed Records
From the instant an injury happens, meticulous documentation is paramount. Alongside noting the injury specifics and the circumstances leading to it, any signs of retaliation should also be recorded. Whether these signs are overt threats from superiors or subtler gestures like unwarranted scrutiny, ensure everything is chronicled. An attorney can later assess which details are crucial for constructing a solid case.
3. Report Any Retaliation
Companies, irrespective of their scale, typically have mechanisms to report misconduct, including retaliation. Organizations generally wish to steer clear of legal predicaments. Consequently, if you encounter any retaliatory behavior, it's advisable to relay this to a direct supervisor or the HR department. Always back your claims with tangible evidence to ensure appropriate action is taken.
4. Lodge a Formal Complaint
There may be instances where internal routes, such as HR complaints, don't yield results. When faced with such bottlenecks, taking your grievances to an external entity like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a state labor department becomes essential. Regrettably, internal entities like HR can sometimes be biased or dismissive. External organizations are expected to approach matters impartially.
5. Engage Legal Counsel
If traditional methods prove inadequate or the complexity of the situation leaves you uncertain, soliciting legal aid can be invaluable. Lawyers can assist in tasks ranging from gathering critical evidence to submitting relevant documents. They can also exert legal pressure when faced with retaliatory behavior. Employers and their insurers often underestimate the possibility of a worker seeking legal recourse. However, once a worker does, compliance becomes far more likely.
Navigating through any form of retaliation, especially while grappling with medical expenses, is undeniably taxing. Collaborating with a skilled workers’ compensation lawyer can greatly ease this journey.