It is not unheard of in Georgia workers’ compensation cases for employers to retaliate against employees who file claims for injury benefits. It is, however, illegal.
Your Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney can provide you with insight on how best to protect yourself and how to preserve evidence in preparation for a possible future retaliation claim.
Georgia is an at-will state, which means in the absence of a written employment contract, a company can fire a worker at any time, so long as it isn’t for an illegal reason. One reason that would be illegal: As retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
It should be noted that a company that fires a worker while he or she is receiving workers’ compensation benefits may have to pay those benefits for even longer if the worker can’t find another job.
But the burden of proof to show the employee was terminated for an act of retaliation is on the worker. A qualified work injury lawyer can help you map out the best course of action in a situation like this. It’s also a good idea to talk to a lawyer before even filing a claim for workers’ compensation, as he or she can advise you on how to identify retaliatory behavior and what steps to take to preserve evidence if it happens.
Recently, U.S. Steel Corp. was slapped with a U.S. Department of Labor lawsuit, alleging the company is effectively retaliating against workers who report workplace injuries.
In the case of Perez v. U.S. Steel Corp., the federal government alleges the firm discourages employees from reporting latent work injuries by meting out discipline for failure to immediately report.
According to the complaint, two workers for the Pennsylvania-based company were suspended without pay after they failed to immediately report injuries they said occurred on-the-job.
In the first instance, a utility technician got a splinter in his thumb while he was working one day. Thinking it was no big deal, he removed the splinter on his own and went about the rest of the work day without reporting it. However, two days later, the patch of skin where the splinter had been became infected. He sought treatment at that time and also reported the incident to a supervisor. He was suspended for five days without pay for failing to immediately report the injury.
In the second case, a laborer at a different plant was hurt at work when he bumped his head on a low beam. Because he’d been wearing a hard-hat, he didn’t experience serious pain immediately. However, days later, he sought treatment for pain and also stiffness in his shoulder, which doctors attributed to the work injury. When the injury was reported by his union representative, the company suspended him for five days without pay.
The workers both filed complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), asserting their employer retaliated against them for work injuries. OSHA determined the company violated provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act with these actions.
It ordered the company to rescind the disciplinary policy. When the company refused, the DOL filed its lawsuit.
For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.