If you’ve been injured in a workplace accident or because of harmful exposure to toxic or stressful conditions at work, filing for workers’ compensation can often be the only way you can get paid back for medical expenses, emotional distress and lost work time. Unfortunately, some employers may try to retaliate against employees who file for workers’ compensation; either because they don’t want to pay the costs or think that it makes their business look bad.
However, it’s important to know that you are protected from discrimination and harassment just because you filed for workers’ comp. In the state of New York, employer retaliation is against the law, and by knowing your rights, you can stop employers from taking harmful action against you while you are in the process of getting workers’ comp.
Legally, “retaliation” can include several different types of actions taken by employers after an employee files for workers’ comp. One example is demoting someone or changing their responsibilities at work; other employers might lower your pay without a sufficient explanation as to why, or withhold certain benefits at work. Typically, retaliation includes any type of of unnecessary punitive measures.
If you want to prove that your employer is retaliating against you, you must first prove that you are an employee of the company that’s eligible to receive benefits. You must then show that you engaged in a “protected action” — like filing for workers’ comp — and that your employer took some sort of punitive measure against you afterward. The most important part is that you have to prove that the punishment was carried out directly because of your decision to file for workers’ comp, which may not always be straightforward. However, if you can show that the reason your employer gave for punishing you isn’t reasonable given the circumstances, you may be able to show that the real reason was to retaliate in response to you filing for workers’ comp.
So what can happen to employers who retaliate? The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board says that violating the anti-retaliation law can lead to a fine of up to $500. It’s also possible to sue your employer if you believe you have enough evidence to bring a case against them, though you have to file your lawsuit fairly soon after the retaliation occurs in order to fit the requirements.