Construction work can be a very dangerous job, even if all safety protocols are followed and all equipment is up to code and in proper working order. So, imagine what can happen on a construction site when even the smallest of safety measures are not followed, or a piece of equipment has a manufacturer’s defect.
It is perfectly reasonable to wonder if you would get into any kind of trouble or even lose your job for filing a lawsuit, which is exactly the issue we are going to address here today as well as explaining options workers who have been injured on the job have for recovering medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Options for Workers Hurt on the Job
If you are injured on the job, you generally have two options, both of which are dependent upon the circumstances of the injury. Those options are:
- Workers’ Compensation Claim
- Civil Personal Injury Lawsuit
Workers’ Compensation Claim
This is a type of insurance provided by employers that will cover medical expenses and wage supplementation. The caveat for this type of claim is that you will have to use only the doctors permitted by your workplace and the claim is limited in terms of being able to recover additional damages (meaning you can’t recover ANY of those types of damages). When this claim is filed, you forfeit the right to file a civil suit against your employer.
Civil Personal Injury Lawsuit
The majority of workers’ claims will be filed through workers’ compensation claims. However, there will be exceptions where negligence or fault can be proven, in which case you are entitled to file a civil suit in lieu of a workers’ compensation claim. In addition to recovering medical costs and missed wages, you are entitled to recover non-economic damages, which can make a huge difference in the case in terms of a monetary settlement. Just remember, you MUST be able to prove negligence or fault from another party, which could include your employer, to win this type of case.
Filing a lawsuit against an employer can be scary, especially considering the current situation during the pandemic. Many states in the country today are “at-will” employers, which makes it very easy to terminate any employee. This circumvents the need for progressive discipline that leads up to termination and allows a company to cut its losses without having to work through a series of suspensions before firing someone.
However, “at-will” still does NOT allow companies to fire people out of revenge, discrimination, or anything of the sort. This is where filing a civil suit comes in, as this would likely fall under critical exceptions to the at-will clause.
Critical Exception Examples Related to Workplace Lawsuits
FMLA – The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows workers to take up to 12 consecutive weeks (without pay) of leave without the danger of being terminated. Once you file for FMLA for a valid cause, you cannot be terminated during this period by your employer.
Whistleblower – A lawsuit could be considered a form of whistleblowing since you would be reporting some type of negligence in the workplace, but this is generally for an employee that goes to local, state, or federal officials to report some type of crime or wrongdoing by the company.
Can They Fire Me?
Excluding the examples given above, you CANNOT be fired in the workplace out of revenge for filing a lawsuit. Generally speaking, employers are prohibited from firing employees for:
- Injury or disability with making accommodations required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Filing for a workers’ compensation claim or disability benefits
- Testifying before a Workers’ Compensation Board (for example, you testified for another employee that was injured)
- Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employees cannot be terminated for reporting activities such as discrimination, violations of labor laws, wage and hour regulations, or wrongful conduct.
- Under the Occupational Safety Hazards Act (OSHA), workers cannot be terminated for reporting a disregard for violation of workplace safety regulations.
While these protections are in place, some employers will find other reasons to fire employees who have a civil suit pending against them. For instance, an at-will employer could technically fire you for being late for work one day, even if you have no history of punctuality abuse on your record. However, such an act would undoubtedly be scrutinized and could lead to another lawsuit for wrongful termination.
Do You Need an Attorney?
Have you recently suffered an injury that you believe occurred due to negligence or because of faulty equipment at your workplace? Were you recently terminated or are you being harassed after having filed a civil suit or workers’ compensation claim? If so, we would love to help! Give us a call at 855-633-0888 to discuss your case FREE of charge. You are under no obligation to use our legal services for this consultation. If you would like to learn more about our legal services before contacting us, please click here.
Taryn J. White is a legal research specialist and Injury law news reporter. Her current accomplishments include helping those facing any injuries from vehicle accidents, workplace accidents, and medical malpractice.