In the United States, employees have the right to expect their working conditions will not endanger their safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is tasked with ensuring workers are provided with a "safe and healthful workplace." Nevertheless, employers do not always live up to that standard, occasionally resulting in workers sustaining injuries while on the job.
When an employee reports a work-related injury, the law provides that the employer may not retaliate against the worker in any way. According to OSHA, "You cannot be transferred, denied a raise, have your hours reduced, be fired, or punished in any other way because you have used any right given to you under the OSH Act."
If a worker believes he or she has been the victim of unlawful retaliation, the worker can seek legal remedies.
Such was the case with two Illinois Central railway workers, who sustained injuries in two separate accidents in 2008.
In February of that year, a worker fell after slipping on ice in an area that was poorly lit, injuring his arm and shoulder. He properly reported the injury to his employer, yet was later fired for allegedly failing to abide by the employer's policy for reporting injuries. OSHA determined the employee must be allowed to return to work when he is physically able to do so. He was also awarded back pay, punitive damages and compensatory damages.
In August of the same year, another worker sustained injuries on the job, properly reported those injuries and was later fired for allegedly violating safety rules. After an OSHA investigation, the agency concluded the worker was "terminated in reprisal for reporting a work-related injury." Consequently, he received back pay, vacation pay, payments for medical expenses, punitive damages and compensatory damages.
Source: Chicago Tribune, "U.S. rules against Illinois Central railway in whistle-blower injury cases," Jon Hilkevitch, July 20, 2012.
Our firm handles situations in which workers in different fields sustain injuries. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Chicago construction accident page.