If you’ve been hurt at work and are now in fear of losing your job because you’re trying to get the benefits you need, you’re not alone. But, you do have legal recourse for getting the compensation you deserve and keeping your job. We understand that you may fear retaliation from your employer, but there are laws in place that protect you from retaliation.
If you’ve been hurt at work in Minnesota, you have benefit rights under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act (MWCA). This includes:
- Access to wage benefits
- Access to medical benefits
- Access to rehabilitation benefits
Unfortunately, your employer or their representative may not inform you of all of your rights under the MWCA.
This article will go over what workers’ compensation is and discuss the legal considerations and the MWCA. We’ll help you make an informed decision regarding your workers’ compensation claim.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is compensation used to replace an employee’s wage and insurance during a period of incapacitation after the employee becomes injured in doing their job. It is a form of insurance covering the employee rather than the employee suing the employer over the injury.
Not only is this a form of insurance, but state laws also require it. Since workers’ compensation is exclusive and does not allow the employee to sue over the injury, the result minimizes the employer’s risk.
Workers’ compensation benefits are also not taxable. In some cases, workers’ compensation may also work with the employee pursuing vocational rehabilitation if they cannot return to their position.
Rules vary from state to state, such as how many employees you need to be required to carry workers compensation insurance. It is a recommendation that employers carry workers’ compensation coverage if they have employees.
Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act
In Minnesota, the employer should notify employees of their rights to workers’ compensation, but unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. If the employer is guilty of obstruction or wrongful termination, the employee may sue for damages. At this point, the employee should reach out for legal assistance.
Workers’ compensation benefits are not taxable. If an employee sues for damages, those dollars are taxable. Damages are a monetary award received in a retaliation claim.
Not only can an employer not fire an employee for making a claim, but it is also illegal for the employer to threaten to terminate the employee. If a threat occurs, the employee may still be able to fight for damages.
Legal Considerations for Workers’ Compensation
Minnesota has its requirements for workers’ compensation. Generally speaking, an employee cannot get fired if they file for workers’ compensation benefits. Suppose an employer does fire the employee – that act is considered wrongful termination. Additionally, the employer cannot obstruct an employee from filing for benefits.
The obstruction could be anything an employer does to prevent an employee from filing for workers’ compensation. This employer status can get tricky in terms of determining who is considered the employer. There is no doubt that the president of an organization is an employer, but what about a lower-level supervisor who interferes with an employee’s ability to file for workers’ compensation benefits?
Therefore, the president may be fully aware of workers’ compensation laws, and middle management may be aware also. Lower-level supervisors may not be aware nor even care about workers’ compensation laws.
If an employee makes an accusation of obstruction, management must prove the obstructor did not have the authority to do so to avoid some or all liability. They would also need to confirm the employee knew the obstructor did not have the power, however.
When an employer violates the law by terminating an employee, it is considered wrongful termination. Termination is another situation when all levels of supervisors and managers must be trained on critical legal requirements.
Dealing with Harassment, Threats, and Termination
The statute’s language states that an employer cannot “threaten” the employee for seeking out workers’ compensation benefits. Under the MWCA, you cannot be terminated, either.
If you believe you have been threatened, harassed, or wrongfully terminated due to a workplace injury, you should take steps immediately to protect yourself and your future.
Here are 5 essential tasks you should take to protect yourself if your employer becomes challenging to deal with or terminate you. It’s also a good idea to have these ready for your lawyer or workplace representative.
Task #1: Document the Reason for Termination
The employer must have given a reason for the termination. Document exactly what that reason is.
- Did the employer cite performance, attendance, neglect, or lack of skill?
- Were you given a hearing or some opportunity to refute the claims or concerns?
- Was this the first time these concerns were brought to your attention?
Task #2: Make Notes of the Timeline of Events
- When did you get injured? Note the actual date and time as well as what happened before, during, and after.
- When did you report it? Did you report it promptly, or did you wait more than 24 hours to inform your employer? If there was a delay in reporting it to your employer and why?
- Did you seek medical attention from an approved provider? If not, why?
- What was the period of incapacitation? Were you out for an extended period? What employer contact occurred during the period of incapacitation?
- When did you return? Did you return straight to full duty, or was there a period of restriction? What were the limits?
- When did you return to full duty?
- When were you terminated?
Task #3 Gather Documentation
Document everything and do not leave that documentation at work. If you leave it at work, you will likely not have access to it in the event of termination. Often when an employee gets terminated, they are walked to the door and not allowed to grab what they need right then and there.
Task #4: Gather Witnesses
Document witnesses of the injury or termination as well as anything anyone may have said at the time. Note any comments they may have made to you or others.
Task #5: Note Any Previous Concerns
Take note of any previous concerns before your injury or before your wrongful termination.
- Would there be anything in your personnel file for previous discipline or reprimands that could be brought up?
- How were previous evaluations handled?
- Has your work performance always been acceptable?
Get The Compensation You Deserve
Minnesotan construction workers are tough and dedicated, but that alone doesn’t protect them from workplace injury. The UCWCP is an excellent alternative to the state offered reporting program and sees many of these injuries on a regular basis.
Even though workplace accidents are common, that doesn’t mean you have less to lose. Letting these incidents go without seeking workers comp or letting a denial stop you in your tracks can result in lost wages, medical debt, and even being unlawfully let go because of your injury. Don’t let that happen to you!