The long history of relations between employers and employees is fraught with strife, disputes, and mistreatment. From the company stores to the labor union fights, you have always been able to count on businesses to care more about their bottom line than the well-being of their employees. This is a particularly touchy subject today where employee wellness programs are something that many businesses are competing to be the best at. However, while HR may be on your side 100% of the way starting from recruitment, everything changes when their insurance premiums and workforce completion is on the line.
If you have recently suffered a workplace injury and filed for worker’s compensation, it is actually more likely than not that you will face some form of retaliation. Not only will companies mess you around about compensation, medical coverage, and benefits, they are also likely to try to pressure you to make a decision that is far more in their best interest than in yours. In fact, it can go beyond simply asking you to return early. Many employees with an active workers compensation claim experience harassment both in and out of the workplace.
Why Employers Harass
When an employee gets injured and files a worker’s compensation claim for compensation while they take time off for recovery and medical treatment, this hurts a company in three ways. First, it makes them look bad that someone got injured on the job. Second, it takes a valued worker out of their active team without them having the option to hire someone into your place. And third, workers compensation payments and insurance coverage causes the company’s insurance premiums to go up.
Depending on the motivations of your employer, this can cause them to try and push you to change your position, claim, and actions in a direction that will benefit them whether or not it will benefit or even hurt you.
Types of Harassment Related to Workers Compensation
When an employer doesn’t like the results of your injury and workers comp claim, there are steps they can take and steps they can’t. They can examine your situation very closely and argue that you need a minimal amount of compensation. They can politely ask you to change your position or reconsider your decisions. What they can’t do is harass you into making a decision they like better or backing down from defending your rights and needs. If you’re not sure if what’s going on at work counts as harassment, it may help to know the common forms of harassment that have happened to many others in the same situation you are.
Pressure to Come Back
The most innocent and flattering form of workers compensation harassment is when your employer is very eager for you to come back. If you have to take leave to recover on doctor’s orders, your employer may be left short-staffed. This can be hard on your employer and you may even want to come back early because you care about your team and enjoy your job. However, your employer is not allowed to call, email, or approach you over and over to let you know how much they want you back.
It should also be noted that if you do come back early, contrary to your worker’s compensation recovery plan, this can be used as grounds to lower your whole compensation. So the request may not be so innocent after all.
Suggesting that You Drop the Claim
There’s no mistaking why your employer would want you to drop the claim and they might even weave you a sad story of overhead and layoffs to pay for your compensation. They might threaten, cajole, beg, or subtly suggest that there won’t be a job waiting for you when you return. However, workers compensation is mandated by law for a reason and your employer knew the risks when they started hiring employees.
Discrediting and Defamation
One of the most despicable things an employer can do when they’re unhappy about a workers compensation claim is to try to undermine you. Many employees have found themselves insulted, undermined, and even lied about to try and discredit your claim. Their theory is that if they make you out to look like someone unreliable, that they can more easily claim that you are lying about the injury. Even if this starts small with little jokes about how your injury makes you less competent, watch out for discrediting harassment behaviors.
Pressure to Quit
Next, there’s the pressure to quit. If you quit after filing workers compensation, this can seriously damage your claim and possibly even cancel it. This is a big risk for employees who come back to work light duties while still covered by workers compensation. Whether your employer is giving you all the worst jobs, has become nasty to you in social interactions, or simply keeps suggesting that you’d be happy somewhere else, this is an attempt to get you to quit so they can stop being responsible for your injury.
Threats of Job Loss and Demotion
All employees are subject to their employers’ choices when it comes to promotions, demotions, and even being let go. However, demotions, threats of demotions, and threats of firing are incredibly common in workers compensation cases. However, if your employer does fire you, this is grounds for a significant increase in your compensation for retaliatory actions.
What to Do If You Are Being Harassed
If you feel that you are being harassed and/or retaliated against as a result of your injury and workers compensation claim, you probably are. Whether they’re making you want to quit, undermining your reputation, or begging you to come back, when an employer starts to harass, the situation gets sticky. To know where you have grounds for increased compensation or if it’s time to file a harassment and/or negligence lawsuit instead, please contact us today. We’re ready to help you navigate the murky waters of dealing with retaliatory harassment.