According to a recent study conducted at Harvard, work-related injuries seem to increase the risk of being terminated from your job. After comparing 6 months of data accumulated from employees in the nursing home industry, researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston found that employees who had suffered work-related injuries were much more likely to be fired within six months.
Results from the Harvard study are disconcerting
While it is illegal for an employer to retaliation against an employee for filing a Workers' Compensation claim, it happens more often than you might expect. This particular study looked at nursing home employees at 30 different nursing homes across New England. More than 1,300 nurses were interviewed over an 18-month period. The initial purpose of the study was to assess safety issues in the workplace.
However, when these nurses were asked whether they had been injured at work in the previous six months, the results lead the study in a different direction. They found that 30% of these nurses were no longer still employed within 6 months of their injury. It was also determined that these employees were more likely to leave their jobs voluntarily if they had been injured numerous times.
Why were these nurses losing their jobs?
The researchers speculate that these employees were terminated most likely because their employers came to the conclusion that they could no longer perform their job duties or because of a concern that they would be injured again. It is also possible that some employers were trying to avoid an increase in Workers' Comp insurance payments. These are common issues in Workers' Comp retaliation cases.
The problem with Workers' Comp retaliation
In response to work-related injuries, many employers try to blame the employee for the injury and challenge the Workers' Comp claim. Some employers may even punish employees for bringing a claim. However, this type of response goes against the purpose and goals of the workers' compensation system, which is to quickly provide relief to workers injured on the job.
What is Worker's Compensation Retaliation?
Retaliation means taking an "adverse employment action" against an employee for "engaging in legally protected activity." Filing a claim for a work-related injury under the Workers' Compensation Act is considered a legally protected activity. In other words, an employee is authorized under Alabama law to file this type of claim and is therefore protected from any adverse action taken by his or her employer.
Alabama's law against worker's compensation retaliation
The Alabama Workers' Compensation Act was amended in 1985 in order to provide a prohibition against retaliation. The amended language states as follows:
No employee shall be terminated by an employer solely because the employee has instituted or maintained any action against the employer to recover workers' compensation benefits under this chapter or solely because the employee has filed a written notice of violation of a safety rule pursuant to subdivision (c) (4) of Section 25-5-11.
If an employer takes any adverse employment action against the employee, such as demotion or termination, then the employer has retaliated against the employee, which is illegal.
If you feel you have questions regarding worker's compensation retaliation, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.