Every day in the state of West Virginia, people get hurt and need to seek the protection of workers’ compensation benefits. In most of these situations, a successful claim results in medical coverage and disability benefits that can protect workers from the financial impact of medical bills and lost wages while they recover. In other cases, a claim could result in an employer fighting the claim and even retaliating against the worker.
Whether you work in the coal mines or as a receptionist in a busy medical office, you have some degree of risk for developing an injury or illness related to your career path. The whole point of workers’ compensation insurance is to protect you from the financial consequences of getting hurt because you work.
Unfortunately, some companies will do everything in their power to keep their workers from getting workers’ compensation benefits, including potentially firing or punishing those who try to claim their benefits. Others will refuse to adjust the workload or tasks of those with injuries or illnesses, forcing them to quit or leaving them vulnerable to further injury.
Retaliation for workplace injuries is illegal but still happens
Federal law makes it clear that it is never appropriate for a business to punish a worker for reporting discrimination, filing a whistleblower report about illegal activity or requesting the benefits they need after a workplace injury. An employer should not take adverse action against an employee legally asserting their rights.
Sadly, employers usually know about these laws, but they also know that their workers’ compensation insurance premiums will likely go up after a successful claim. The larger the claim, the more it will impact the cost of ongoing coverage. Companies can and do intentionally deny valid claims brought by long-term employees just to protect their own financial interests.
Even worse, they could choose to also fire that person for seeking the benefits they deserve under the law. Given that they know that termination for an injury is illegal, they may seek to make work miserable for the employee or try to generate questionable grounds for the termination to protect them from allegations of retaliation.
Knowing your rights is the first step to standing up for them
There are many people who don’t fully understand what protections they have under both federal and West Virginia law as workers. If someone doesn’t realize, for example, that their employer can’t discriminate against or punish them for an injury, they might see their termination as reasonable if they can no longer perform the job they once did because of their medical condition.
Your employer has an obligation to accommodate disabilities, especially if they result from a workplace injury or acquired illness. When they violate your rights and fail to uphold their duties as an employer, you may need to take legal action to protect yourself and future workers at the company.