Kaarin S. Nelson is an attorney at Halunen & Associates. She represents employees facing workers’ compensation retaliation and other employment related issues. Below, she discusses how employees can face scrutiny after filing a claim.
You’re a good employee and you work hard at your job. You go in everyday and tuck yourself under a customer’s car, drive to a client’s office or hospital, or climb the ladder to a customer’s roof. One day, a day that otherwise starts out like all the others, you injure yourself while you are at work. This injury could be a minor slip and fall, or a more serious accident that requires surgery and possibly years of rehabilitation. You go to the doctor, you miss some work, and you may have some work restrictions. As is your right, you apply for workers’ compensation.
Sometime after you apply for work comp, your employer starts treating you differently. It might be as elusive as making you feel less valuable than other co-workers. Possibly your employer becomes critical of your work in ways that didn’t happen before your request for workers’ compensation, amounting to some form of performance improvement plan. Or maybe it is as bad as humiliating comments about your value as an employee (I have heard comments as shocking as “we should take you out back and shoot you” and “if you hadn’t applied for workers’ compensation none of this would have happened”). This humiliating treatment may lead to a demotion, termination, or some other form of adversity.
If you are being treated differently after you applied for workers compensation, you may be experiencing retaliation because of that claim, and the law protects you from that. There are steps you can take to make sure this law works for you. You can call an attorney who works with employees experiencing retaliation because of a workers compensation claim. You can also make a report to your employer laying out your concerns of retaliation. This report should protect you against further retaliation, or, at the very least, it may strengthen your legal claim if your employer turns a blind eye to your report.
Recovering from any injury can be stressful and daunting. Having work restrictions can be scary and may force you to address concerns about your future earning potential. Your doctor will probably tell you to focus on your recovery, and you should, but you might also have viable legal recourse that you should be aware of and could help protect you and your family.