Barkan Meizlish , July 5, 2019
The short answer to that question, which is one we are asked often at Barkan Meizlish, is no.
Does it happen? Sadly, yes.
Workers’ compensation was designed and implemented to help injured workers and employers cope with workplace injuries. The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) pays medical benefits and lost wages to an employee who is injured or contracts a disease associated with his or her job. The bureau also pays death benefits to survivors when a death results from a work-related injury or disease.
According to Ohio’s Labor and Industry code “no employer shall discharge, demote, reassign, or take any punitive action against any employee because the employee filed a claim or instituted, pursued or testified in any proceedings under the workers’ compensation act for an injury or occupational disease which occurred in the course of and arising out of his employment with that employer.”
The code seems pretty clear-cut, but we know there are some bad actors out there.
Companies do not like being named in workers’ comp claims. A claim will likely drive up their insurance costs. Also, reports of workplace accidents require investigations. Companies can then be exposed to regulatory penalties and requirements to change the way they operate.
Too often, anger and frustration at such consequences gets illegally redirected toward the employee who suffered and called attention to unsafe working conditions. Workers’ comp retaliation takes many forms. An employee who returns to work after filing a claim can face:
If a company or organization does retaliate, it can leave the employee isolated, scared, and looking for answers. Unfortunately, it is not always obvious how to prove that retaliation in the workplace is directly related to seeking workers’ comp benefits.
Consulting with a trusted member of your human resources department or a concerned supervisor to clarify what is happening can be a good first step. It is also important to document actions that feel or are identified as retaliatory. This cannot be overstated. Document everything you can.
At some point, speaking confidentially with an employee’s rights attorney will provide some peace of mind and insight on how to end the retaliation or hold the employer accountable.
A workers’ comp retaliation settlement typically includes compensation for back pay, front pay, and emotional distress. If a case goes to trial, a jury is also empowered to award punitive damages and to order the defendant to pay the employee’s attorney fees. Punitive damages are noncriminal fines that are intended to penalize wrongdoing and serve as an example to other companies that might mistreat people who apply for workers’ comp benefits.
Several attorneys with Barkan Meizlish DeRose Cox, LLP, devote themselves to assisting their fellow Ohioans with securing workers’ comp benefits. These lawyers, who work out of each of our offices in Columbus, Cleveland, and Marietta, offer free consultations throughout the state and take appointments online. Employees with concerns about violations of their rights can also get answers by calling (614) 221-4221.
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