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Employer responsibilities under workers’ compensation laws

Workers' compensation is a benefit program available in most states to employees who are injured while working on the premises of their jobsite or as a result of job responsibilities. Workers' compensation generally covers medical expenses that are incurred as a result of an injury, as well as lost wages and expenses that result from a diminished quality of life.

Most employers are required to abide by workers' compensation laws in their respective states. Generally, they must purchase workers' compensation insurance from an insurance provider, and then subsequently file a claim with their insurance when an employee requests workers' compensation. Some states allow larger employers to self-insure against workers' compensation claims, while small employers with minimal employees may not be required to purchase workers' compensation insurance for their organization. 

What if an employer does not purchase workers' compensation insurance?

While it may seem like an added expense that only benefits the employees of the organization, the workers' compensation system is also designed to protect employers. Under workers' comp rules, an injured worker seeking benefits through the insurance policy foregoes any further legal action against the employer, except under cases of flagrant employer misconduct.  

If the employer does not carry workers' compensation insurance, the injured employee (or family) can seek legal action against their employer. The employer, at that point, may be subject to a variety of penalties, ranging from minor to severe depending on the circumstances. Some employers may be subject to fines, while others may find that they face criminal prosecution, personal liability or civil lawsuit. 

Employer responsibilities in regards to workers' compensation claims

The law places some mandates on employers in regards to workers' compensation. First, employers must post that they are in compliance with current laws. This notice should be posted in a public area where it is visible to most employees on a frequent basis.

Beyond posting notice, employers must be quick to take action in the event of an injury at the workplace. Employers must seek medical attention in the event of an emergency on the jobsite, or allow the injured employee to seek care from a health care professional. 

After an injury has occurred, employers are required to fill out a detailed report about the incident. Every accident or injury should be logged in order to maintain proper records for the workers' compensation insurance policy. Employees are required to participate in these reports, and refusal to do so can result in penalties for the individual employee. In addition to completing the reporting process, employers also must respond to any requests for further information or documentation from the insurance company or the workers' compensation board within the state. 

Retaliation for filing a claim is against the law

To help protect employees who file a workers' compensation claim against their employers, employers have a duty not to retaliate against employees who seek compensation after a workplace injury or illness. Unfortunately, despite the fact that this is a duty of workers' compensation laws, many employers will try to subtly discipline employees who have sought workers' compensation claims. Some employees are unable to be promoted after filing a claim, while others may be outright terminated after the fact. 

Employees who feel that they have been discriminated against are able to take legal action against their employers under the "retaliatory discharge" tort. These civil action lawsuits allow employees to seek damages in the event of disciplinary action, punishment or termination that stems from a workers' compensation claim. Employees who have experienced retaliation in the wake of a workers' compensation claim should work with an attorney who specializes in workers' compensation law. An experienced attorney will be able to help the individual employee collect the evidence necessary to prove their case and receive the settlement that they deserve after the stress and frustration that they endured after a workplace injury or illness.

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