Personal injury Lawyer Matt Arnold answers the question: “What qualifies a person to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits?”
Despite the millions of U.S. workers each year who report a workplace injury or illness, there are countless other workplace injuries that go unreported. Incentives for not reporting (and disincentives for reporting) keep many workers from ever reporting their injuries, barring them from filing for workers’ compensation to receive wage compensation and medical treatment.
Astonishingly enough, very little to no information about the workplaces where the injuries that are reported occur is available to either the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or the general public. It’s not that the information is not already recorded—employers are already required to collect and maintain records of reported workplace injuries.
Working to remedy this, a new rule OSHA just announced will require certain employers in industries deemed to be “high hazard” to relay reported workplace injuries to the federal agency in quarterly reports so the information can be posted on OSHA’s website. The rule is good news for workers on other fronts as well—it puts in place protections for workers who report work-related injuries or illnesses against retaliation from their employer.
The rule will go into effect on August 10 of this year.
Who will have to follow the new rule?
Reporting requirements vary slightly depending on the size of the workplace.
Employers with 20 to 249 employees that are in one of the “high-hazard” industries OSHA has listed must adhere to the new rule. The “high-hazard” designation is not as high a bar as it may sound, however; OSHA’s list of hazardous industries includes everything from agriculture, construction and trucking to grocery stores, department retailers, and dry cleaning businesses. A complete list of OSHA-designated high-hazard industries can be found [here].
Any employer with 250 or more employees must adhere to the new rule regardless of whether their business falls into a high-risk category.
Employer reporting requirement
Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels has publicly compared the new reporting requirement for certain employers to the sanitary rating requirements imposed on restaurant owners; as public disclosure of sanitary grades encourages employers to increase efforts to improve food safety, Michaels explained that OSHA expects the new public reporting requirement will encourage employers to do more to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses.
The new reporting requirement is not without its critics. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called the rule “misguided,” expressing concern that it could lead to employers being falsely labeled as unsafe and could lead to public shaming. Labor advocates’ response? Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
The reporting requirement is also designed to help workers choose safer places to work, Michaels said. In the same way that sanitation grades give consumers power of choice by knowing the risk involved with each restaurant option, workers will be able to have a better understanding of which workplaces might be more inherently dangerous—or poorly managed.
The rule is also a boon for workers’ rights because of its protection for workers from their employers retaliating against them for reporting workplace injury. It is true that workers have the right to report job-related injury and illness. However, workers are frequently discouraged from doing so, especially in workplaces without some type of union representation.
The new retaliation protection provisions aim to protect workers from being fired for reporting an injury or otherwise being taken advantage of. In many agricultural businesses, for example, workers are discouraged from reporting injuries for fear of losing their immigration status. Other employers attempt to blame the worker for the injury, citing them for “lack of situational awareness,” further damaging the injured worker’s job prospects.
Under the previous rules, an employee who was retaliated against for reporting a workplace injury could object to the retaliation, but it had to be handled as a separate claim that could take much longer to resolve. Now, retaliation can be challenged directly and handled as a reporting violation.
If you or someone close to you has been injured, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today who can help you receive the compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC for a free consultation, call at 704-370-2828 or click here for additional resources.
About the Author
Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.
A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.
In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.
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