A man hurt his knee in a workplace accident on December 2nd and received workers’ compensation. When he returned to work at the end of February, his manager blamed him for the accident, suspended him and later fired him. The worker alleged that he was terminated over the workers compensation claim and he has now gone to court calling it a wrongful, retaliatory termination.
When a worker sustains an injury, it could lead to a prolonged leave of absence, and also a possibility that the worker may never return to work in the same role with the same responsibilities.. But terminating an injured employee could lead to violations of federal and state law.
An employer may terminate a worker because:
A worker’s health and employment are protected by various laws, and to avoid possible legal complications, an employer may not terminate a worker:
While policies are fairly straightforward when applied to permanent employees, it is often difficult to interpret regulations for agency-supplied temporary workers. Nationwide, temps are far more likely to find jobs in dangerous occupations like manufacturing and warehousing. And their frequency of injury has been dramatically, prompting David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, to issue the following statement:
“Host employers need to treat temporary workers as they treat existing employees. Temporary staffing agencies and host employers share control over the employee, and are therefore jointly responsible for temp employee’s safety and health. It is essential that both employers comply with all relevant OSHA requirements.”
Despite growing concern about the safety of temporary workers, the government has failed to make major changes, in part because the federal government does not keep injury statistics on temp agency workers. While accurate incident reporting doesn’t exist, most experts believe that the reporting of incidents involving temporary workers is understated.
In previous blogs, we addressed the many reasons for the unusually high accident rates. Temporary workers are more likely to take on more dangerous jobs, and do so with little or no training. Temps are often working in a new environment, operating machines or handling tasks they don’t have experience with and using muscles they might not normally use. Safety gear many not be provided, or the temp agency may deduct the cost from the employees’ paychecks.
In addition to a higher risk of sustaining a severe injury, temporary workers are often faced with greater risks of job loss following the accident. AT DCR, we find that the vast majority of staffing agencies proactively take steps to ensure that they are placing their employees in safe working conditions, and that their employees are fairly treated if an accident does occur. However, the American Staffing Association reports that in the United States, there are more than 17,000 staffing agencies, and not all comply with Federal and State regulations for ensuring worker safety and protecting the rights of injured workers. Some of the most abusive practices reported by OSHA include:
Some Best Practices:
In every case, keeping the lines of communication open between the staffing agency, host employer and worker is half the battle – the rest depends on the organization and its culture.
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