Today’s post comes from guest author Thomas Domer from The Domer Law Firm in Wisconsin. Below is an article discussing the fear of retaliation many injured workers around the country feel when they are faced with the decision of whether to report a work-related injury or not. The rules vary from state to state, and as the article discusses, the fear often depends on a number of different factors.
In Nebraska, if your employer terminates your employment because you reported a work-related injury, you may be entitled to additional compensation due to your employer’s retaliatory actions. This type of claim is referred to as a retaliatory discharge claim. Retaliatory discharge claims are considered an exception to Nebraska’s at-will employment doctrine. This is because the Nebraska Supreme Court determined that allowing the type of fear of retaliation for filing a claim discussed in the article below undermined the very important purpose of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act, which is to relieve injured workers from the negative economic effects caused by a work-related injury. All that being said, though, a retaliatory discharge claim requires very specific facts and will not apply to every situation because it is an exception to the rule of at-will employment. In fact, a large amount of potential claims will not fit the criteria needed for a retaliatory discharge claim. That is why it is important to speak with an experienced attorney about your potential case.
Workers often fear retaliation if they report a safety violation or work injury related to a violation. Concerns about being fired or other forms of retaliation by employers permeate the process of worker’s comp claims filing. Studies have indicated that retaliatory fear prompts many workers not to file either OSHA or workers’ comp claims. Workers also don’t want to be perceived as careless or complaining. In a Government Accounting Office (GAO) study of OSHA reporting, occupational health providers often reported to workers’ fear of retaliation as a reason for underreporting. Fully 2/3 of health providers “reported observing worker fear of disciplinary action for reporting an injury or illness.”
Pressure from co-workers also prompts failure to report safety violations and comp claims. Safety incentive programs (sometimes called “safety bingo” ) create incentives not to report, since non-reporting leads to a reward for a work group. If one worker reports his injury, the entire crew may pay the price. The GAO survey found this peer pressure to be a troubling factor contributing to underreporting to OSHA. (Anecdotally, I remember a worker who cut off his finger on a Friday, wrapped it in a hankie and put it in his pocket , rather than report the injury and disappoint his fellow employees looking forward to a case of beer reward for “100 consecutive safe work days”).
OSHA is currently proposing new electronic, public reporting rules for large employers.