Workers get hurt every day on the job, and many of them are afraid to speak up when they do. Even though most people know that state and federal law are supposed to protect them after a work injury, they may, understandably, worry about asserting their rights.
A fear of employer retaliation is a common one, and it prevents countless workers from making use of the systems that were put in place for their financial and physical protection. They worry that if they ask for benefits or take time off, their employer will punish them.
1. They fear losing their jobs
Technically, workers benefit from federal protections for numerous actions that their employers may not like, including the right to report an injury on the job and to file a workers’ compensation claim. They can also ask for a leave of absence for medical reasons in most cases and accommodations for their physical limitations.
However, the fear that their employer will fire them when they report their injury or ask for financial support keeps them silent. After all, workers who don’t have a job anymore won’t be able to support themselves even after they recover from their injuries. Retaliation often involves fabricating a reason to terminate a worker’s employment.
2. They fear career stagnation
Some businesses would never dream of outright firing a worker who requested compensation or reported an injury because they don’t want to wrist claims of wrongful termination and retaliation. However, those same organizations may also treat a worker differently once they speak up for themselves. Employees may find themselves getting fewer hours, scheduled to work worse shifts or no longer having any upward mobility at the company despite a lot of potential opportunities for which they believe they qualify.
Retaliation technically involves any negative career consequence directly stemming from an employee engaging in a protected activity. What is key to remember, though, is that although fears of retaliation may be well-founded, when retaliation occurs, it is illegal. Seeking legal guidance can both help to prevent retaliation and can address it if/when it does occur.
Those who have dreams of management or other career advances may worry that speaking up could cost them their job or their future advancement. When workers understand that retaliation is illegal and that they can get support throughout the entire claims process, they may feel more comfortable reporting an injury and asking for help from a legal professional when seeking workers’ compensation benefits.