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“I was harassed after filing a work comp claim. What can I do?”

“Maria” injured her back in a slip-and-fall at work. She filed a workers’ compensation claim and was successful. She returned to work under modified duty/light duty. While back at work, her immediate boss continually assigned her to the least desirable tasks at work, did not step in when fellow employees repeatedly mocked her and implied that her injury wasn’t real, and refused her applications for a promotion.

Maria endured the treatment. She had already rocked the boat by filing a workers’ compensation claim. If I speak up now, she thought, I will lose my job. She dreaded going into work every day, and her job performance suffered.

Maria is a fictional character, but her experience is one faced by many people in real life. Some even end up leaving their jobs, forced out by illegal pressure tactics.

You don’t have to endure it.

Here’s why you should report harassment at work:

  1. Workplace harassment (see the EEOC’s definition of harassment) is illegal. It is unlawful to harass or otherwise retaliate against someone for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
  2. If you do not speak up, the harassment will continue -- to you and others in your situation.
  3. Your employer cannot fire you for bringing a claim against it.
  4. Speaking up against the harassment will not affect your workers’ compensation claim.

You may have heard that the workers’ compensation system was created to shield employers from lawsuits. This is true, but only as it applies to workplace injuries. It does not give employers a green light to mistreat their employees. You can bring a discrimination/harassment claim against your employer.

What should you do if you experience harassment?

First, talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. Document everything you have experienced and continue to experience. Save emails and create a log of events that includes the date/time the harassment occurred, the names of the people who harassed you and the details of the harassment.

Remember: The law is on your side. After a work injury, you have every right to expect to return to a safe work environment. The last thing you need is to face harassment by fellow employees or, worse yet, your boss. Their actions are illegal, and they need to stop.

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