Last week on our Long Beach / Los Angeles employment law blog we had mentioned that employers in California are prohibited from retaliating against workers who report or file complaints about unsafe work conditions. Employees have a right to work in an environment that will not jeopardize their physical and mental well-being, and employees should be able to report concerns without being harassed or fired for doing so.
When unsafe conditions lead to workplace accidents, injured employees may be able to file claims for workers' compensation benefits. Unfortunately, injured employees may run into some of the same problems other workers face for reporting unsafe work conditions. Some employees are fired for filing workers' compensation claims while others are talked out of filing claims by their employers. These actions are illegal. Workers deserve to have their rights protected, especially when their lives may be at stake. And workers also deserve to be compensated for their work-related injuries or illnesses without facing retaliation.
A group of workers who used to work at a gun range are now suing their employer for violating their rights when they became injured on the job. The nine workers claim that their employer fired them when they tried to apply for workers' compensation benefits.
The nine injured employees claim that they were exposed to dangerous chemicals while on the job, and that they were also not provided with proper safety equipment or training. During a remodeling project at the gun range in September 2012, the employees were required to search for bullets in soil and sand that had been contaminated. The employees had questioned whether this task was safe, and they were told by their employer that the project had been approved by public agencies.
Several weeks later, some of the employees began to feel ill. The employees sought medical help and doctors administered tests that revealed the ill employees had lead poisoning. When the employees applied for workers' compensation benefits and reported their illnesses to public agencies, the employees were fired. The nine employees are now seeking compensation for damages caused by their employer's illegal actions.
Source: Courthouse News Service, "Fired for getting lead poisoning, nine say," June Williams, Feb. 14, 2013