What The U.S. Steel Lawsuit Can Teach You About Workers’ Rights

Firm News | March 2, 2016

Do you feel comfortable reporting injuries at work? Does your employer encourage you to report any injuries that occur?

It is critical to report a workplace accident as soon as possible after the event, and there are several reasons for this. Most importantly, filing a report alerts your employer to any safety issues that might need to be addressed and it also creates a record so that you can obtain the workers’ compensation benefits owed to you by law.

Encouraging workers to report their injuries isn’t only the right thing to do, it’s the law.

However, the federal government recently sued U.S. Steel Corp. for exactly that. The company, in fact, encourages its employees to report injuries immediately. What could be wrong with that?

Understanding The Labor Department’s Argument

The government argues that requiring employees to report injuries immediately is actually a means of discouraging workers from reporting injuries at all. Often, workers are not able to file injury reports immediately, in some cases because they do not realize the severity right away.

The lawsuit stems from the case of two employees who were suspended without pay for reporting injuries mere days after the injuries occurred:

  • One employee sustained a splinter on the job. He pulled it out, likely assuming it was not a big deal. But, two days later his hand had become swollen and he learned the splinter caused an infection. So he reported the injury only to be suspended without pay.
  • Another employee bumped his head on a low beam while wearing a hard hat. He didn’t notice any pain, so he went about his work. Four days later, his shoulder felt stiff and he sought treatment. His union rep reported the injury and he was suspended without pay as a result.

Both workers complained to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that U.S. Steel retaliated against them for reporting workplace injuries. OSHA agreed and the labor department sued in an effort to compel U.S. Steel to give its workers more time to report injuries.

The future of this case remains to be seen. For now, it is a lesson that in order to protect yourself, it is important to report workplace injuries as soon as possible. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for reporting an injury or unsafe working conditions. If you have experienced retaliation or need help with your workers’ compensation case, contact our Chicago law office to schedule a free consultation. Let us help you protect your rights.

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