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Negative reviews might be retaliation for work accident claims

A recent lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor is relevant to Minnesota workers find themselves  facing discipline or even dismissal by their employers for reporting accidents or unsafe work conditions.

The lawsuit alleges that AT&T retaliated against four of its workers for making workplace injury claims. The claimed retaliations consisted of negative performance evaluations or performance notices which either faulted the employee for incurring the injury, or claimed that the injured worker failed to comply with company safety policies.

The main issue of the lawsuit is whether the employer’s claim that it is attempting to maintain a safe workplace environment by holding employees accountable for behaviors contrary to company safety policies is an indirect means of discouraging workers from reporting workplace accidents.

Employers may wish to minimize workers’ compensation claims or even employee lawsuits for reasons ranging from maintaining a clean safety record to holding down costs of doing business. By making an example of employees who report an unsafe working environments, other workers may be hesitant to do the same.

AT&T has denied that its motivation for faulting the four injured workers was retaliatory, but the Department of Labor disagrees. Relying on an Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation, the Department Of Labor found the employer’s negative reviews and performance notices were a form of retaliation.

Minnesota workers who experience workplace accidents and believe that their employer is attempting to deter them from making an injury claim, or punishing them for doing so, may have options for remedies against the employer.

Any worker who believes that an employer has engaged in retaliation or discrimination as the result of reporting an injury may want to consult an attorney with experience in labor and employment issues.

Source: The Wichita Eagle, "Labor Department sues AT&T, alleging retaliation for employers reporting injuries," Jerry Siebenmark, May 15, 2014

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