Workers compensation laws are designed to settle financial differences and eliminate the need for litigation in the event that a protected employee is injured or disabled on the job. These laws can also provide benefits for the surviving dependents of an employee killed by a work-related accident or illness. While the workers compensation program is federal, states are responsible for implementing it. To that end, each state has established its own workers compensation laws to provide repayment for the medical expenses and lost wages that result from a qualifying workplace injury or condition. There are even some industry-specific compensation laws like the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) and The Black Lung Benefits Act for occupational injuries that may be unique to those fields of business.
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In balancing the rights of all parties, workers compensation systems use a “no-fault” approach to consider liability in order to avoid court-related hardships and improve the efficiency of settling claims for workplace injuries or deaths. Employers typically finance the program through insurance premiums, but in some states (including Florida and Minnesota) companies may self-insure, meaning they pay all claims themselves. Requirements and qualifications for employers to obtain workers compensation are state-specific; Minnesota law makes coverage mandatory, where Florida has industry and size standards for employers to qualify.
The nature of and circumstances surrounding the work-related injury in a claim play an important role in an employee’s ability to qualify for compensation. Qualifying injuries can include:
- Physical injuries (includes exposure to dust and toxins, hearing loss, and repetitive motion-induced injuries);
- Exacerbation or acceleration of pre-existing conditions caused by working;
- Injuries incurred during breaks, lunch hours, and company-sponsored events;
- Mental stress or injury that results from a work-related physical injury. Minnesota workers compensation also recognizes cases in which mental stress produces a physical injury (Florida does not).
Workers Compensation Retaliation
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Filing a workers compensation claim in good faith can still leave employees vulnerable to retaliation from employers with coverage. While facing an increase in insurance costs because of a claim, employers could respond by punishing the employee who asserted their workers compensation rights in adverse ways that relate to employment. Examples of this include firing, demotion, lowered pay, or unwarranted disciplinary action. If an employer’s adverse action is motivated by an employee’s good faith action to seek workers compensation benefits or otherwise engage in protected activity, the employee may have a claim for workers compensation retaliation, depending on the specific laws of the state and the circumstances of the individual case. Most states have laws that prohibit employers from retaliating against workers that exercise their right to file a workers compensation claim, but there is some variation. In cases of retaliation associated with workers compensation, there is typically a state-specific time frame within which a claim must be filed. If you believe you have been the target of workers compensation retaliation, it is best to consult with an attorney to determine what the time limit for your claim would be, what protections apply to you, and if you have been illegally discriminated against.
If you feel you have suffered retaliation for filing a workers compensation claim, call Florin Roebig at (727) 786-5000 or visit our contact page for a free consultation.