Employees in Minnesota facing retaliation for making workers’ comp claims can fight back using protective state laws. Some employers and supervisors unfortunately choose to discourage employees from seeking benefits when they are injured at work. Employers certainly have an interest in discouraging workers’ compensation claims because their insurance premiums could increase after claims are made. But the law recognizes that workers should not face retaliatory employment actions just because they get hurt.
“Retaliation” means that an employer fires or threatens to fire an employee for seeking workers’ compensation benefits, or otherwise intentionally obstructs the employee from getting the benefits. (Minn. Stat. § 176.82.) The employer does not have to follow through with a threat to fire an employer or actually prevent the employee from getting benefits to face liability. (Schmitz v. U.S. Steel, No. A12-709 (Minn. Aug. 27, 2014).)
Often cases of retaliation involve a manager suggesting that an employee should not report an injury or request benefits, with an implied threat of demotion or termination if the employee does so. In other cases, the employer “lays off” or fires an employee, citing poor performance or attendance problems. The timing and circumstances show that the employee was laid off just after the employer learned of his injury.
An employee facing retaliation may file a civil lawsuit against the retaliating employer. (Minn. Stat. § 176.82.) This lawsuit would be a separate action from any petition to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. State court judges decide civil lawsuits, rather than workers’ compensation judges. The employee can request a jury trial. (Schmitz v. U.S. Steel, No. A12-709 (Minn. Aug. 27, 2014).)
Damages available in a civil lawsuit for retaliation include the amount of any reduction in workers’ compensation benefits caused by the employer’s actions, costs, attorneys’ fees, and punitive damages to deter the employer from similar conduct. Workers’ compensation benefits do not offset the amounts of damages you can receive in a civil lawsuit. (Minn. Stat. § 176.82.)
Notify your workers’ compensation lawyer of any retaliation you face for requesting workers’ comp benefits. If you suspect you will be terminated from employment for filing a claim, your lawyer could alert the employer and insurance company. Also, keep documentation of the retaliatory actions you face. This could be as simple as writing down the details of each incident right after it happens. While retaliation for filing workers’ comp claims does happen in Minnesota, you can fight back and get the benefits you deserve.
Need help opposing retaliation for seeking workers’ compensation benefits? Joe Osterbauer, Esq. and the Osterbauer Law Firm stand up for injured Minnesota workers’ rights. Joe’s 27 years of workers’ compensation experience and his team’s speedy service combine to get clients the results they need. To schedule a free consultation, visit Osterbauer Law Firm online or call Joe’s office at (612) 334-3434.