Your Employer Cannot Punish You for Filing for Workers’ Compensation—And Here’s Why

Nov 9, 2015 | Employment Concerns

Part of our work culture in this country is independent. We’re hesitant at best to raise questions about the safety standards at our jobs or point fingers when common practices are clearly dangerous. No one wants to lose his or her job because he or she is seen as someone who makes waves against common work practice. Denver workers’ compensation attorneys and Denver work comp lawyers might want people to be a little more outspoken about clear issues in their workplaces but that just is not part of our work culture. We tend to swallow injuries if we don’t think they’re serious and keep going at work because workers’ compensation is a scary system. Also, in part, we consider ourselves tough enough to withstand most injuries. Whether we’re right or not is another question.

In Colorado, workers’ compensation changed significantly in 1919 with the Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act. Before that, Greeley workers’ compensation lawyers would actually help clients in the standard court system. That meant injured workers wouldn’t begin getting the medical help they needed until after long, drawn-out trials where employee sued employer directly. There was no state-induced cap on how much money employees could get, which is different from the current system. However, while the reward used to be potentially a lot higher, the risk rose in proportion. Employers could respond with common law defenses and for employees, actually getting the money for treatment was hard. The trials ate up a lot of time, were exhausting during difficult times for employees, and the costs of getting an award went up. In 1919, Colorado decided to do away with that system and created one of the first “no fault” acts for workers’ compensation in the United States. That system, with a few minor changes, is the same today.

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The Workers’ Compensation Act makes the Division of Workers’ Compensation exclusively responsible for any claims made about work injuries. That means employees can’t sue in district court for any claim about work injury, illness, or death and in exchange are guaranteed to have medical benefits, temporary wage benefits, and permanent disability and/or disfigurement paid for. So in exchange for giving up the right to sue your employer in court, you have the right to get your care and even scars paid for by your employer. Usually, that means your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance, which the company is required by law to have with a few restrictions on employee status and number of employees.

Another way to think of workers’ compensation is “no fault.” That means your employer should—no questions asked—file a claim through his or her workers’ compensation insurance if you’re injured on the job. The claim should be accepted and—no questions asked—you should begin to see your medical care paid for, your lost wages taken care of, and even your transportation to and from your doctors reimbursed. No fault insurance means you don’t have to prove your employer caused your injury. It’s enough that you were injured at work. In the real world, things get a lot more complicated, but that’s the gist of the question. So why are people afraid of filing workers’ compensation claims?

Many employees have great relationships with their employers. Some employees worry if they file a workers’ compensation claim, their employers will punish them because the employee suddenly becomes expensive. Sometimes, people are afraid of the workers’ compensation system, itself. To be fair, since all workers’ compensation claims have to go through a specific division, things don’t always work the same way they would in an ordinary injury claim. Fear of reporting the injury can come from a number of places but mostly, people are afraid of their employers punishing them in some way. This is probably the biggest hesitation people have about reporting legitimate workers’ compensation injuries. It’s only natural, considering how we think of our jobs and the culture surrounding work injury.

However, no part of the Act allows for employers to punish employees for being hurt on the job. And employers pay for workers’ compensation insurance, anyway. The facts about workers’ compensation in Colorado simply don’t allow employers to penalize injured workers for filing workers’ compensation claims. So don’t worry, your employer can’t punish you for filing a workers’ compensation claim.

Workers’ Compensation can be difficult, confusing, and very complex. Kaplan Morrell has helped thousands of injured workers since 1997 get the benefits they deserve. Contact us here or call us at303-780-7329 for your free consultation.

Source: 2 Patricia Jean Clisham, Esq., Larry R. Martinez, Esq. & Michael J. Belo, Esq. Colorado Employment Law § 19.2.1 (Ellen Buckley, Esq. ed., 2014).