Know Your Rights: Avoid Workers’ Compensation Retaliation
Let’s imagine a hypothetical scenario.
Say you were injured at work in a freak accident. It wasn’t your fault; in fact, it was nobody’s fault, but sometimes these things happen.
After the accident, you did everything you were supposed to do. You reported the injury to your supervisor and filled out paperwork. Maybe you even completed a post-accident drug screen and breath test.
This injury is going to cost you—those medical bills and time spent off work adds up. As a result, you think it’s a good idea to file for workers’ compensation. You start the workers’ compensation process.
Now, you start to notice something strange. Your boss is acting cold, when you previously had a friendly relationship. To top it off, soon after, your boss claims your job performance is poor, even though your most recent performance review was very good. It turns out you’re going to be demoted—or worse, fired!
What’s going on here?
This scenario is a classic example of workplace retaliation, and it isn’t hypothetical for many American workers.
Today, we’re talking about workplace retaliation. What is it? What should you do if your employer retaliates against you for filing a workers’ comp claim? Keep reading to find out.
What Is Workplace Retaliation?
Retaliation happens when your employer punishes you, the employee, for engaging in a legally protected activity.
Legally protected activities include things like reporting discrimination or harassment, requesting accommodation for a disability or religious practice, and filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Under Ohio law, it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim. You have the right to file a claim without experiencing negative employment consequences as a result.
Unfortunately, just because it’s illegal doesn’t mean it never happens. Some employers—not wanting to pay the claim—retaliate against the injured employee by demoting, firing, or otherwise punishing them.
What Does Retaliation Look Like?
Retaliation can take many forms, but the key is that your job was negatively affected. Examples include:
- Changes in job position or responsibilities
- Decreased pay
- Unwarranted disciplinary actions, like receiving a poor performance review or being put on a performance improvement plan (PIP)
- Bullying and harassment
Other changes can be retaliation, even if they aren’t necessarily “negative” for everyone. For example, being switched to a different shift is not in and of itself a retaliatory act. However, if you have young children at home and working a different shift would be an extreme hardship (and your boss knows this), this request might be considered retaliation.
What If I Suspect Retaliation?
You don’t have to take retaliation lying down.
If you suspect you’ve been the victim of workers’ comp-related retaliation, it’s important to protect your rights.
First, be sure to document all of the negative acts that occurred after you filed for workers’ comp. Write them down and save them.
Then, consider talking to your supervisor or, if your company has one, the Human Resources department. Ask specific questions about the negative changes you’re experiencing at work: ask your supervisor or HR why your position has changed, or why you are being demoted or fired. They may have a legitimate explanation. If they are retaliating, they likely can’t give you a good explanation.
If you suspect retaliation, you can tell your supervisor or HR department. Request that the negative action stop immediately. If possible, try to get these conversations in writing.
It’s possible—even likely—that your employer will deny retaliation and will not stop the behavior.
If that’s the case, you might consider reporting the retaliation to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or seeking an attorney. The EEOC is a government agency that is responsible for enforcing laws against discrimination and retaliation. When you file a report, the EEOC investigates and works to hold your employer accountable.
You might also decide to talk to a lawyer about your circumstances and file a lawsuit against your employer (or former employer, if you were wrongfully terminated).
Proving Workers’ Comp Retaliation in Court
To prove retaliation, you’ll need to provide compelling evidence that your employer treated you negatively because of your workers’ compensation claim. The more evidence you have, the better.
For example, if you were demoted or fired for “poor performance” shortly after making a workers’ compensation claim, keep records of the timeline of events. Also keep a record of evidence that contradicts your employer’s claim that your performance was poor: things like positive performance reviews, emails praising your work, etc. This information supports your claim that “poor performance” wasn’t the real reason you were demoted or fired.
Proving retaliation can be difficult, which is why it helps to have an experienced attorney on your side.
Call an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you have questions about your workers’ compensation claim, contact us today. Our workers’ compensation attorneys are experienced, knowledgeable, and dedicated—and they’re here for you.