Individuals seeking worker’s compensation are faced with hours upon hours of paperwork, doctors’ evaluation appointments, legal fees, and other miscellaneous activities regarding their case. As if this wasn’t enough, sometimes employers retaliate. As of 2013, recorded workplace injuries had dropped by 31% over a period of ten years, but a growing number of companies were reported to have retaliated against workers’ compensation claims within the same time period. How are the interests of the worker best protected in this situation? Don’t be intimidated by employer retaliation.
Know Your Rights
Fear of retaliation should not deter you from seeking the legal rights afforded to individuals injured at work. These are:
- Entitlement to worker’s compensation benefits throughout their career (not a contract worker or someone who signed away rights to worker’s compensation).
- Filing for worker’s compensation as remuneration for a serious work-related injury or illness.
- Termination or experience of negative changes to conditions of employment due to filing aforementioned worker’s compensation claims.
A majority of states have laws, which prohibit employers from retaliation against injured workers, but federal law outlines no specific stipulations regarding worker’s compensation retaliation. Most federal laws target other kinds of retaliation, so it is important to understand your state’s legal stance on this issue. Qualified and experienced attorneys will be familiar with state specific worker’s compensation retaliation laws, so consider them a resource if state law statutes are not clear from personal research.
Florida state law outlines anti-retaliation provisions found in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Florida Civil Rights Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act as Amended, and the Family Medical and Leave Act. Any worker seriously injured due to work conditions will usually qualify for worker’s compensation benefits. Unless fraud is proven, there is very little chance an employer can challenge a worker’s right to fair compensation.
Once work termination or change to conditions of employment has been linked with recent worker’s compensation claims, workers have a right to protect themselves legally. It’s advisable to hire a knowledgeable legal team that has experience in state law, regardless of severity of company action. Larger corporations may attempt to mask retaliation through loopholes in legal statutes or even fraud, however this should not deter anyone from seeking legal assistance that will allow fair receipt of compensation for work-related injuries. Don’t let employer retaliation threaten the future of your livelihood. Get informed with the appropriate legal knowledge.
Wage benefits, medical coverage and vocational rehabilitation, also called indemnity benefits in Florida, may not feel like enough to the employee who thinks they have been toxically exposed in the workplace. An article on the the Workers’ Compensation Institute (WCI) website talks about chemical exposure and what affected workers can do, other than simply accept what Florida’s Workers’ Compensations laws allow. These laws may not require you to prove employer negligence, but they do not provide payment for pain and suffering.
This WCI article advises for mediation in place of traditional wage benefits or protracted litigation.
- To win a workers’ compensation case in Florida, you must have suffered an accidental compensable injury or death arising out of work performed in the course of employment. -Florida Statue 440.09(1)(2012)
- This injury caused by a toxic substance including, but not limited to, fungus or mold, is not an accidental on-the-job injury unless you possess convincing evidence showing that your exposure to the toxic substance was at levels which caused the injury or disease you sustained. -Florida Statue 440.02(1)(2012)
- This accidental compensable injury has to be the major contributing cause of your resulting injuries, and this cause must be proven by medical evidence only. The cause described herein must be more than 50 percent responsible for the injury, as compared with all other causes combined. -Florida Statue 440.09(1)(2012)
Any person making a workers’ compensation claim based on the these parts of the Florida statute will have a difficult time, although not an impossible one, proving that they were toxically exposed at the rate/level which caused serious, compensable injury. Securing the needed expert medical witnesses demands time and money.
These reasons suggest, according to WCI, that the claimant contact attorneys familiar with the mediation process. These attorneys work along with the mediator as he/she tries to identify and reconcile the interests of workers’ compensation and the claimant. The mediator and counsel focus on the factors that have lead to the claim and on the needs and capabilities (i.e, claimant’s power to resolve the medical problems, etc.) of both parties.
The mediator may tell the claimant and his counsel, “Consider your real chances of winning – and the costs!” Likewise, the mediator may ask workers’ compensation, “What if the claimant meets the ‘burden of proof?’ . . . what if you have to pay huge future benefits?”
Mediation, although highly advisable in toxic exposure cases, can be a lengthy process. If you think your chemical exposure on the job has directly resulted in serious medical issues, contact us.
Sadly, many people every year succumb to injuries they first sustained at work. If the person who passed away provided at least some of your financial support, you are likely entitled to workers’ comp death benefits. This is true whether your family member died instantly or several years after the original injury.
Most Common Types of Fatal Employee Injuries
According to a 2012 Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) report, the fatal injuries that occur with the most regularity include transportation accidents, contact with equipment, falls, chemical or environmental exposure, fires or explosions, and assaults in the workplace. Men are at significantly higher risk for fatal workplace injuries than women.
Compensation Available to Dependent Family Members
Florida, like most states, includes funeral and burial costs as part of its workers’ compensation program. Benefits are also available to immediate family members who depended on the deceased for support. This normally includes a spouse and children, but can include parents and other family members if they were financially dependent.
State law provides payment of up to 66 2/3 percent of the deceased’s normal weekly salary. The paid amount cannot exceed $150,000 total. If the employee was married without children, his or her spouse is entitled to 50 percent of the weekly wages. When the marriage involved children, the spouse is entitled to 50 percent and 16 2/3 percent goes to the children. The dependent children of workers who were not married can each receive up to 33 1/3 percent of the worker’s weekly earnings.
Workers’ compensation payments don’t happen automatically. It is up to the surviving family members to initiate it by filing the required paperwork. Anyone who is uncertain of how to do this should first seek legal help. This is also true of non-traditional family members who relied on the deceased worker for support. This is because the law can get complicated if the person making the claim was an unmarried partner of the deceased, a dependent stepchild or otherwise doesn’t meet the definition of close relative.