I Was Fired After a Workplace Injury
No one plans to become the victim of a workplace injury. Yet, according to the National Safety Council, 2.5 million Americans are permanently injured in workplace accidents each year. In 1970, the United States Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The federal labor law ensures safe workplace conditions for millions of workers across the country. One of the provisions within the act prevents employers from punishing injured workers by terminating their employment. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, administers and enforces the act.
Just because the Occupational Safety and Health Act prohibits employers from firing injured workers does not mean it cannot happen. In New Mexico, it is illegal to retaliate against injured employees, especially those seeking worker’s compensation benefits. If your employer fired you after you were injured on the job due to no fault of your own, contacting an attorney skilled in workplace accident law can help protect your rights.
Common causes of workplace injury
There is no shortage of ways workers can get hurt on the job today. Some businesses and industries, like construction and manufacturing, are more prone to injured workers because of the nature of the work they perform. Among the most common types of workplace accidents include:
- Ergonomic injuries, including back strains and torn ligaments, can happen when employees are improperly trained.
- Heavy machinery causes some horrific injuries when it is improperly maintained, misused, or poorly designed by the product manufacturer.
- Slips and falls from equipment like cherry pickers and scaffolds. Workers also can become injured on slippery work surfaces like exterior sidewalks and stairs.
- Vehicle accidents using company vehicles or personal vehicles while completing work-related tasks during working hours cause a fair share of workplace injuries. Some industries, like truck driving and delivery services, are the most prone to these types of workplace accidents.
Getting hurt on the job is costly
Most on-the-job injuries require medical treatment and possibly extended time off work to recover. Work injuries cost U.S. workers on average $42,000 per injury. That includes lost wages and medical expenses incurred for the treatment of the injuries. For workers who end up permanently disabled from a workplace accident, the costs can soar even higher.
The most common types of workplace injuries include:
- Crushes, Dislocations, and Fractures
Worker’s compensation claims focused mainly on the head or central nervous system, with average claims totaling $87,951 per injured person. Worker’s compensation insurance does not always cover the full cost of an injured employee’s expenses. Consulting with an attorney skilled in workplace accident law can help victims recover additional damages if qualified.
Employment-at-will status and workplace injury
New Mexico is an “employment-at-will” state. Technically, this means an employer can fire an employee at any time for any reason (or for no reason at all) unless there is a legal employment agreement stipulating otherwise. Another limitation to the employment-at-will doctrine is in cases where an employee is terminated after getting hurt on the job and filing for worker’s compensation. Firing a worker in this situation is a violation of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act and can land employers in hot water. Not only can the OSHA fine them for the violation, but the injured worker also can file a worker’s compensation lawsuit against them claiming unfair termination.
Retaliation goes beyond termination
Firing an injured employee is one of the most obvious forms of retaliation for getting hurt on the job but it is not the only way employers can take out their frustration on employees who file for worker’s compensation. Here are some other common ways employers strike back:
- Demotion or failure to promote.
- Intimidation in the workplace.
- Negative reassignment, reclassification, or transfer.
- Poor performance review.
- Reduction of wages.
- Unreasonable decrease or increase in job-related duties.
- Unwarranted disciplinary action.
If any of these things happen to injured workers they must immediately contact a workplace accident attorney who can ensure their rights are protected.
How to prove workplace retaliation
Most employers know that workplace retaliation is illegal and avoid engaging in this behavior. Others may be bold enough to admit they are dismissing an employee due to a workplace injury or worker’s compensation claim. In those instances, proving workplace retaliation is easy for an attorney. Employers who engage in the behavior in a more underhanded manner can be more difficult – but not impossible – to pursue retaliation.
Timing is important when proving reprisal from your employer. If negative consequences begin within three months of an employee filing a worker’s compensation claim for a workplace injury, the law views that as supporting evidence of likely retaliation. Another way to support your case is by reviewing your personnel file. Employees that had stellar reviews and employment records before an injury suddenly receive poor performance reviews and disciplinary action, logical inferences of retribution can be drawn.
Experienced and proven workplace injury lawyer
Injured workers have rights and remedies if they suffer workplace retaliation for reporting on-the-job injuries and worker’s compensation claims. If you think you may be a victim, contacting a workplace injury attorney is your best bet at protecting your rights. The law does not take worker’s compensation retaliation lightly and neither do the compassionate attorneys at Archibeque Law Firm. Call 505-750-2363 or contact us online to schedule your complimentary case review and