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Good news, bad news: work injuries down, but retaliation up

A classic way of conveying news is to say that there is good news and bad news. Sometimes this is a lead-in to a joke of some sort. Sometimes it is not.

The good news and bad news about workplace injuries, however, is certainly no joke. It is no joke because workplace safety is a serious concern for employees in the Baltimore area and across the nation. And it should be for employers as well.

Unfortunately, national data indicates that retaliation by employers against employees who file workers' compensation claims is on the increase. That is of course bad news for employees.

To be sure, there is also good news. Overall, the number of injuries reported in the workplace has gone down by 31 percent in the last ten years.

But a research service that tracks incidents of employer retaliation against employees who file work comp claims has found that such incidents have increased significantly over those same ten years.

The research service noted that there were about 100 cases decided last year alone in state and federal courts regarding employees who were fired or faced other retaliatory action for filing workers' compensation claims. 

Federal safety regulators are concerned that the fear of retaliation could discourage employees from reporting work injuries. Indeed, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says this is already happening.

Last year, OSHA did not only remind employers that retaliation is against the law. It also warned them that offering awards for achieving work safety goals must be done in the proper way. It is not acceptable to offer such awards or incentives if they discourage workers from filing injury reports after they are hurt on the job.

Source: Wall Street Journal, ""Workplace Injuries Drop, but Claims of Employer Retlation Rise," James R. Hagerty, July 22, 2013

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