There were more than 3 million reported workplace injuries and illnesses in the United States in 2012. While that may seem like a lot, a new study by FindLaw.com suggests that many workplace injuries actually go unreported.
FindLaw’s study found that 9 percent of Americans say they have been injured on the job but chose not to report it for fear of retaliation, such as being fired or being passed over for a promotion.
The study’s findings are particularly disturbing, considering the wide range of federal laws that protect employees from discrimination, including discrimination related to workplace injuries and illnesses.
According to the survey, the vast majority of unreported injuries involved slip-and-fall accidents, overexertion, repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, being caught in machinery, and other musculoskeletal injuries. While many of these injuries were serious, the workers involved chose not to report them for fear of hurting their career prospects.
Fortunately, workers are protected from discrimination related to a report of a workplace injury or illness:
“Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee because the employee reports an injury or illness, and many states have laws that specifically prohibit employers from retaliating against workers who file for or receive workers’ compensation benefits,” said Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney-editor at FindLaw.com.
“In addition, OSHA may cite employers who offer rate-based safety incentive programs — such as those that give bonuses or prizes if no one from a team is injured over a given period of time — if that safety incentive program discourages workers from reporting accidents or injuries,” Rahlfs said. “If a worker is injured on the job, they should immediately notify a supervisor, and if appropriate, a union safety representative.”
For more information on employee rights and workers’ compensation, take a look at the FindLaw Accidents & Injuries Center. In addition, FindLaw’s Employment Law Center offers a wealth of articles and resources on employment discrimination, workplace safety, and employee termination.
— Michelle Croteau, Director of Marketing Communications
with Corey Licht, FindLaw Audience Team