Every employee in America and in most first world countries has the right to a hostility-free work environment. Even and especially if you get injured on the job.
Companies have had a bad history of harassing injured workers for either getting injured, filing a workers compensation claim, or both. Worse, because they often force employees to sign a non-filing agreement in order to receive workers comp, meaning you may not feel that there is any way to seek recourse for the targeted harassment you are now facing at work. However, workplace discrimination for temporary disability is a completely different issue, one you are still allowed to file on and we’re here to help you through this complicated and uncomfortable situation.
If you have recently suffered an injury at work, then you likely already know what we’re talking about. Whether or not you have already accepted a compensation plan or if the company is still trying to talk you down, retaliatory harassment can start at any point after the injury, though a workplace looking to cover it’s behind may not start until after you sign the non-filing agreement. Retaliatory harassment comes in many forms ranging from begging you to come back to pressuring you to quit. Your employer may downplay your injury or start suggesting that you’re too clumsy to be competent. Many employees in this situation find themselves demoted without cause and derided in the workplace. However, the question is whether or not this harassment is legally recognizable. If so, you do have a way to get the fair treatment and compensation you deserve.
When Retaliation Becomes Legal Discrimination
Employers harass their injured employees with a wide variety of approaches and methods. Sometimes to force you to make a decision that benefits them and sometimes as their way of blaming the victim for an incident that makes them look bad and costs them money. These motivations often overlap and you may find yourself the subject of ridicule, offensive jokes, insulting names, and reduced responsibilities that have nothing to do with light duty on recovery. However, if any of these things clearly relate to your injury or form a pattern that relates to your injury, you could be suffering from more than just retaliatory harassment. At some point, your employer may cross the line from everyday nastiness into legally actionable discrimination.
A Workplace Injury is a Disability
What most recently injured employees don’t realize is that temporary disability is still legally a disability. Just because most jobs can’t fire or refuse to hire someone because they have a permanent limp, they also can’t discriminate against someone with a broken leg. Coworkers calling someone names for having a life-long stutter are just as liable for mocking a colleague for talking funny while recovering from major dental surgery. Along the same lines, if you are being targeted because of your injury, you are being discriminated against due to a current disability.
Temporary disability may also apply to other situations in which an employer may seek to terminate or demote an employee who is temporarily less physically capable than they would be otherwise. Pregnant women, for instance, are at a higher risk of discrimination in the workplace while gravid, along with people recovering from a medical procedure or who were injured in a non-work-related incident. Harassment for any of these conditions is discrimination for temporary disability and is legally actionable meaning that you have serious grounds to combat your employer in court even if you have already signed a non-filing agreement about another issue.
Keep Notes and Get a Lawyer
Like any harassment case, your best strategy to defend your case is meticulous notes and accounts from witnesses. If the harassment has come in email form, archived chats, or recorded voicemails, you’re in luck as these are hard-copy evidence. Of course, most workplace harassment is purely verbal or very circumstantial (like putting your coffee cup on a high shelf while you can’t reach). Take a note every time a snide remark, threat, name-calling, or discriminatory action occurs and work with coworker friends to be your witnesses should it come to a he-said, she-said.
If it does come to a lawsuit, you will want to seek out an experienced workplace discrimination end employee rights lawyer to help you navigate the murky waters between your compensation, the retaliatory disability discrimination, and how the two relate. Here at Aiman-Smith and Marcy, we specialize in helping employees take on the unfair bullying tactics of their employers. Don’t let your employer take advantage of you because of your recent injury. If it has escalated to workplace discrimination of your temporary disability, you can insist on fair treatment in court if they won’t give it to you any other way. To find an employee rights lawyer, contact us today!