While a lot of people believe that their employers will “do the right thing” after they get hurt on the job, many are later disappointed to find out that, when it comes right down to it, their employers don’t necessarily have their employees’ best interests in mind. Employers sometimes strongly discourage workers from filing a claim after an injury, even to the point of using unfair pressure, intimidation, and other underhanded tactics to firmly get the message across. If your employer is threatening to fire you because you were hurt, or if you’re getting harassing calls from the insurance company about a work injury claim, here are some things you need to know about employer retaliation.
It Is Illegal for a Company to Retaliate After You Report a Work Injury in Texas
It is absolutely illegal for your employer to fire you or retaliate against you in any way after you file a work injury claim in Texas. It is illegal under state and federal law to treat a worker unfairly after a work-related accident or to threaten or retaliate against a worker who has filed a workers’ comp claim. The company is required by law to respond appropriately to your claim. That means that many of these threats and intimidation tactics depend on the victim not understanding his or her rights. The harassment usually stops as soon as you start working with an attorney who is experienced with work injury claims and can make sure that the representatives you deal with are following the rules.
If your workplace has treated you unfairly, threatened you, urged you not to file a claim, intimidated you, or acted against you in any way after a claim, it’s important that you talk with someone who can review what happened and offer an unbiased explanation of your rights.
Why Do Employers Harass or Retaliate Against Workers Who Get Hurt?
Why would an employer try to avoid taking care of an injured employee, especially in cases where the employer may have even been responsible? Sadly, it can all be boiled down into two basic issues:
- They want to save money. Paying for injury claims is expensive, and sometimes employers choose to put the priority on saving money instead of taking care of their workers. In many cases, the company’s bottom line is treated as more important than the needs of workers injured by employer’s own negligence.
- They want to avoid officially reporting injuries. Whether they are reporting to higher-ups at the company or to the government, employers want to avoid reporting accidents and injuries that might make them look bad. While it may benefit the company and its image to brush injuries under the rug, it means that the people who get hurt sometimes face extreme difficulty pursuing the compensation they legally deserve.
Even though company representatives, your supervisors, and even your coworkers may try to talk you out of going through official channels or getting the medical care you need after you get hurt, these steps are necessary if you hope to be compensated for your medical bills and expenses. If the company is trying to keep you from taking these necessary steps, it may be time to start talking to an attorney of your own.
Types of Intimidation Tactics Often Used Against Injured Workers
What do we mean by harassment and intimidation tactics? It can be hard to sort fact from fiction in the whirlwind of documents and meetings that follow an accident, illness, or injury. Although there are many ways—both subtle and not so subtle—an employer might try to keep you from pursuing a work injury claim, the following are some of the most common:
- Pressuring you not to seek medical care or prescription treatment. Your employer may try to talk you out of seeing a doctor or recommend that you try over-the-counter remedies instead. They may tell you that you have to see a company doctor and can’t follow up with a doctor of your own. If you don’t feel like you’re getting the medical care you need, see your own doctor as soon as possible, and then talk to an attorney about what your rights really are.
- Pressuring you not to file a claim or report an injury. If you don’t fill out an injury report immediately, or if you wait too long to file a claim, it may be impossible for you to pursue compensation for your injuries. However, that doesn’t stop employers or supervisors from trying to talk you out of reporting that you got hurt or telling the truth about how it happened.
- Threatening you with disciplinary action. Your employer may try to take action against you after you have been injured, sometimes blaming you for causing the accident, claiming you have a history of accidents, or otherwise threatening formal discipline. They may go through your employment records to drag out anything in the past they can twist around and use against you now.
- Threatening you with the loss of your job. Some people who have been hurt at work are even threatened with losing their jobs because of the injury or accident. They’re told they’ll be fired if they report the injury, or they may be pressured to return to work too soon in order to remain employed.
- Intimidating you with embarrassment and social pressure. Some employers are not above using your coworkers against you, posting publicly about your injury, and using other underhanded tricks to minimize your claim or make it out like you’re the bad guy just for getting hurt.
- Pressuring you to settle for less. You may be pressured to accept the settlement the company wants to give you, often long before they’ve recovered or know the full extent of your injuries. The insurance company or your employer may harass you over the phone, give you misleading information, or use other tactics to make you feel like you don’t have other options and must accept their offer, even if it isn’t enough to help you recover.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone—it happens to a lot of people—and you should know that you do have options. You don’t have to put up with these kinds of intimidation tactics because you were hurt at work.
Feeling the Pressure After Getting Hurt at Work? You’re Not Alone
No matter how many times we see it, our lawyers are always stunned when employers show a blatant lack of compassion for their employees—even when their medical issues aren’t directly related to their work. That’s exactly what happened to FedEx driver Jean Capobianco when she tried to take medical leave for cancer treatment in 2004:
Jean had been a driver for the company for ten years when she suddenly collapsed from a sharp pain in her abdomen. Her doctor told her that she had ovarian cancer and would need to have a hysterectomy and undergo chemotherapy through December.
Jean, who had overcome breast cancer years earlier, was convinced she could return to work after her treatment. She called FedEx Ground’s headquarters to explain her situation and request a leave of absence, saying she would be able to continue driving her route in January. Several weeks later, Jean received a letter saying she had been terminated. FedEx Ground officials could fire her at will because drivers are officially considered “independent contractors” to the company. Unlike regular employees, drivers must pay for the costs of their trucks, gas, and expenses themselves. If they can no longer cover their routes—for any reason—they can be terminated.
Regular employees are protected from these unfair practices by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires companies to keep or rehire employees suffering from cancer or other disabilities. Jean has filed a lawsuit against FedEx for violation of the act. Jean is also seeking unspecified damages for pain and suffering and loss of property, including coverage of her truck. She had paid $40,000 on her truck, but it was repossessed after she was fired.
Here’s another example, this time from a workers’ compensation case reported in the Southeastern Texas Record:
Eddie Morris Benton was working for Activa Products, Inc., when he was hurt in an accident at work. The accident resulted in the amputation of several of his fingers on his left hand, and he was unable to work for several months.
After he was able to return to work, he notified the president of his company and provided the proper documentation regarding his return to his job. However, the company did not contact him to return to work. When Benton applied for unemployment, the company claimed that the man had quit.
Eddie has sued Activa Products for retaliation after his workers’ compensation claim, which is a violation of his civil rights and his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He is suing for lost wages, back wages, loss of earning capacity, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and a number of other related damages.
If you are feeling threatened or harassed at work for reporting an injury or seeking medical care, you are not alone—no matter what your situation. Many employees are mistreated by their employers after they are hurt or become ill, no matter what kind of industry they work in. If you’re being threatened or mistreated by your employer just because you got hurt, don’t make the mistake of assuming that you “just have to take it” in order to keep your job.
Don’t Give in to Intimidation Tactics! Know Your Rights in Texas After a Work Accident
Dealing with pain and worry after a work accident can be difficult, but it’s not always the most difficult part of the aftermath. Unfortunately, workers across the United States struggle to get the compensation they need for their injuries, often facing harassment and intimidation from their employers in the process.
Ultimately, it is against the law for your employer to retaliate against you for filing an injury claim or reporting an injury. If you need help protecting your rights or making the harassment stop, one of our experienced attorneys can sit down with you, answer your questions about injury claims, and provide further guidance. We can help you get justice and compensation for what has happened to you. To get started with a free and confidential case review, call VB Attorneys toll-free at 877-724-7800 or fill out our online contact form.