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Does workers' compensation law also protect against retaliation?

Alabama’s approach to safety is two-fold. Workers’ compensation policies promote workplace safety because employers do not want their insurance premiums to rise. At the same time, the Workers’ Compensation Division of the Alabama Department of Labor confirms its commitment to proactive safety in the workplace through compliance inspections. If accidents do happen, the agency may provide resources for ensuring proper payment of benefits.

Construction workers, in particular, have good reason to take a proactive approach to safety. Big equipment and large-scale projects can be a recipe for accidents. Yet do workers feel comfortable reporting potential safety violations to authorities?

As a law firm that has helped many clients pursue workers’ compensation benefits, we have observed a common fear of retaliation. If an employer does not want to pay the full cost of a worker’s medical expenses and the appropriate percentage of his or her lost wages, should a worker be concerned about job security?

In Alabama, state law prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who filed workers’ compensation claims. Specifically, the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act states that termination cannot be solely because an employee filed to recover workers’ compensation or reported a violation of a workplace safety rule.

But what if an employer attempts to disguise retaliation as performance related? This is just another example of why a worker who is concerned about workplace safety or who suffered an on-the-job injury should consult with an attorney.

An attorney’s advocacy can help to protect a worker’s rights. In addition to workers’ compensation benefits, an attorney can also evaluate whether a separate personal injury claim might be available against an employer for falls from a height, injuries from a defective machinery, or injuries resulting from a third party’s negligence.

Source:  OSHA, “Worker Right and Protections,” copyright 2016, United States Department of Labor

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