One study estimates that around 1 in 10 U.S. workers do not report their injuries, leaving them to carry the burden alone.
Worker’s compensation is a great program for American workers. If you get injured on the job, you have the right to access medical treatment and get time off work without having to pay for it.
At its core, it’s an insurance policy. Your employer pays the premium, and their workers are insured. So why do many injured workers end up not filing an injury report to access these benefits? One study estimates that around 1 in 10 U.S. workers do not report their injuries, leaving them to carry the burden alone.
Why is that?
A Toxic Work Environment May be the Main Culprit
If you look at the data available, the most common reason injured workers cite for not reporting their injuries is fear of workplace retaliation. Simply put, they are afraid that speaking up and filing a worker’s compensation claim may get them fired.
Unfortunately, they may be right. Worker’s compensation claims specifically forbid firing an employee for filing such claims or taking time off for their treatments, but at the same time, Missouri has an at-will employment state. This means your employer can fire you for any cause, and they do not have to prove they had reason to fire you.
You cannot get fired for reasons that infringe on your civic rights, such as race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, but the burden is on you to prove your rights were infringed. This rule opens the door for an employer to fire workers on worker’s comp, and claiming other reasons.
In the end, this boils down to a toxic work environment, in which workers feel that their employment is on the line. Some other ways in which this issue may present itself include:
- Being pressured to not file a claim, and proposing to cover medical costs some other ways.
- Telling the worker the accident is their fault, which in these cases is irrelevant. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, which means that even if the accident is your fault, you are still entitled to benefits.
- Using scare tactics to convince the employee not to file a claim. For instance, immigrant workers are often told that by filing a claim they may have legal troubles regarding their immigration status.
- Peer pressure, feeling like filing a claim may make your co-workers treat you differently.
- Not knowing your rights because nobody explained these benefits to you.
What Should You Do?
Worker’s compensation is a no-fault program meant to protect you. If you get injured at work, it is your right to file a worker’s comp claim and access these essential benefits.
If you feel like you can’t or are told not to, discuss this with a St. Louis worker’s compensation lawyer right away. They can help you navigate the process and protect your right to access compensation.
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