Here are a few things about workplace injuries that employers and their insurance companies don’t want to hear: that the full extent of your injuries may not be apparent at first; that you have the right to seek medical treatment from someone other than the “company doctor;” and that you have the right to deny treatment immediately after a workplace accident. After all, your injuries may be worse than you initially thought they were.
And one major thing that Chicago-area workers should keep in mind is that employers do not have the right to create a work environment that discourages employees from reporting their injuries. That means an employer can’t use intimidation tactics like firing or demotions to make you feel as if you’re wrong for reporting a workplace injury.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration recently found in favor of three workers — one from Chicago and two from Pittsburgh — after their employer, Norfolk Southern Railway Co., fired them after they reported their work-related injuries. For its part, the railway giant claimed the workers made “false statements” regarding their injuries.
OSHA disagreed, however, and ordered Norfolk Southern to pay the workers $1.1 million. The two Pittsburgh workers were involved in a work-related auto accident. They declined to be treated at first, but they got treatment later. Norfolk Southern claimed that the workers weren’t truthful about how badly they were injured. Then, again, not being immediately aware of the extent of your injuries is one of those things employers don’t want to hear.
The Chicago worker is supposed to receive $437,591 in compensation, while the Pittsburgh workers are supposed to receive $683,508. Those numbers reflect punitive and compensatory damages, as well as legal fees.
Norfolk Southern intends to appeal the decision, and the injured workers will undoubtedly need solid legal counsel to receive the compensation they need.