Reporting a Work Related Injury and Employee Discipline
The vast majority of the clients who walk through our door are good, hard working people who just want to do their job. They are not interested in lawsuits or fighting with their employer. Many of them who are hurt on the job don’t report it right away and think they can just “work through it” and they’ll get better. Sometimes this happens, but many times it does not. Many employers will attempt to take advantage of these people by creating work rules that require “immediate” reporting of work related injuries. Those employees who do not report their injuries “immediately” can be subjected to discipline up to and including discharge. The effect of these types of work rules is to discourage reporting of work related injuries especially with those employees who may have tried to “work through it.” Under Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law, an employee is not required to report an injury “immediately.” Under the law, generally, employees are required to report their injury within 120 days of their injury.
In addition, employees are protected under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Pursuant to OSHA regulations, Section 11(c) of the OSH Act prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee because the employee reports an injury or illness. 29 CFR 1904.36. Reporting a work-related injury or illness is a core employee right, and retaliating against a worker for reporting an injury or illness is illegal discrimination under section 11(c). Other whistleblower statutes enforced by OSHA also may protect employees who report workplace injuries. In particular, the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) prohibits railroad carriers, their contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against employees for reporting injuries. 49 U.S.C. 20109(a)(4).
If employees do not feel free to report injuries or illnesses, the employer’s entire workforce is put at risk. Employers do not learn of and correct dangerous conditions that have resulted in injuries, and injured employees may not receive the proper medical attention, or the workers’ compensation benefits to which they are entitled. Ensuring that employees can report injuries or illnesses without fear of retaliation is therefore crucial to protecting worker safety and health.
The U.S. Department of Labor has recently filed a lawsuit against U.S. Steel for a violation of Rule 11(c). In the U.S. Steel case, an employee bumped his head on a low lying beam. He did not feel any immediate pain and continued working. Later he developed arm stiffness and visited a doctor. He then reported the injury to his employer who suspended him for five days for failing to comply with the Employer’s policy of “immediately” reporting an injury.
If you have been disciplined for not reporting your injury in accordance with your Employer’s work rules it is important that you speak to an experienced Pennsylvania Employment Law attorney to determine your options.