Florida workers sometimes hesitate to file a workers’ compensation claim out of fear of employer retaliation. It is important to understand that the Florida’s workers’ compensation law specifically prohibits retaliatory conduct like firing, or threatening to fire, a worker. However, the law goes farther than that. The statute also makes it illegal to attempt to intimidate or bribe an employee that may have a workers’ compensation claim.
Retaliation Takes Many Forms
There are numerous ways an employer might retaliate against an employee for filing a claim. The worker might suddenly receive a negative performance review. Wages might be decreased or benefits might be altered. A worker might be passed over for a promotion or even demoted. The nature of a worker’s job may even be changed to make it harder.
Unfortunately, even co-workers that testify on a claimant’s behalf might be subject to retaliatory conduct. Retaliation against workers that provide information to support a co-worker’s claim is also illegal under Florida law.
Documentation is Important
Of course, retaliatory actions are sometimes cloaked or disguised. The employer may claim that negative experiences occurring after the filing of a workers’ comp. claim were merely coincidental or that other unrelated factors motivated them. Therefore, an employee should carefully track all aspects of the employee/employer relationship, because providing documentation may prove helpful in claiming illegal retaliation. It is important to note dates, times and the nature of relevant communication.
Finally, it is important to understand that employer retaliation is illegal regardless of the merits of an employee’s workers’ compensation claim. It’s possible to file a lawsuit claiming retaliation even when the original claim was not strong enough. For further information or to consult with an attorney about your personal workplace situation, please contact us.
The origins of workers’ compensation can be traced back to Europe with Germany often being cited as the first country to implement an effective nationwide system protecting both workers and employers. The U.S. started adopting workers’ compensation laws during the early 1900s. However, these laws were fundamentally different from those today, mainly because they were written and implemented by states. This article explains why it was so challenging for employees to prove the negligence of their employer and presents the factors that contributed to the need for changes in the early origins of workers’ comp system.
Limited Employees’ Access to Workers’ Compensation
The introduction of workers’ compensation laws made it a bit easier for employees to secure benefits from their employers, which used to hide behind three legal defenses present in the system:
- Contributory negligence
- Fellow-servant doctrine
- Assumption-of-risk doctrine
Under the contributory negligence defense, an employer could deny benefits to an injured worker whose own negligence led to the accident. The fellow-servant doctrine allowed employers to get away from giving benefits to injured workers if the work-related accidents had been caused by the negligence of other employees. Finally, the assumption-of-risk doctrine was used when an employee working in a hazardous environment had sustained an injury.
Where did the Changes Come From?
It was only a matter of time before an overhaul of the early system was needed. A catalyst came in 1911 following the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City. This tragedy, where 146 workers were killed, leads to the creation of the workers’ compensation system in New York and brought a wave of progressive insurance legislation. The Federal Government started putting pressure on the states to pass new workers’ compensation laws, and by the end of 1911 ten states had enacted new laws. By 1935 Florida passed its law, and by 1948 all of the states had some form of workers’ compensation laws enacted.
Under the new workers’ compensation system, employers give injured workers access to benefits, regardless of how the accident occurred, in return for legal protection against negligence-related lawsuits.
Workmen’s compensation in relation to medical benefits is as important as the monetary benefits available to Florida workers. A job injury may not be covered if the worker sees the wrong doctor or approves the wrong tests; knowing what medical treatments are approved before an accident happens will empower all employees before and after injury.
Florida law states that employers must provide the medical treatment. While it is advantageous to the employee that the employer pays, it could also hurt the employee if the employer’s insurance company does not approve the attending physician. When an employee is injured, it is the employee’s responsibility to immediately seek medical treatment from the employer’s recommended health care facility. Employees who proceed to their primary doctor may have their workmen’s compensation case rejected, and will have to pay out of pocket for services.
Tests and Follow Up Care
Any follow up care or further tests related to the injury will need a separate workmen’s compensation case. While the cases can be related to each other, any future injuries or necessary care related to the initial injury will be its own separate entity. This means that employees have the right to continuous care related to the initial injury, but follow up or related injuries will require further paperwork. Approval from the employer’s insurance company will need to be granted for every new case.
The Bottom Line
Florida laws state that workmen’s compensation medical benefits include the initial assessment, follow up visits, special tests, medications, and possible hospitalization. Getting the assessments and follow up care completed as quickly as possible will help the compensation case move smoothly; any delay will result in the necessary creation of a new case. While Florida workmen’s compensation laws can be confusing, every worker should know his or her rights by law before an accident occurs. Any injured worker should seek advice from an attorney specializing in worker’s compensation, such as those at DDB Law.