Phone company under fire for disciplining those injured at work

Would you believe that some Oklahoma companies actually punish workers for reporting injuries they suffer in the workplace? Some employers are so unscrupulous that they attempt to hide workplace injuries instead of helping the victims obtain workers' compensation for their ailments.

Action like this are why the U.S. Department of Labor is taking legal action against Southwestern Bell Telephone Company; that firm is accused of disciplining workers in Kansas and Missouri after they reported on-the-job injuries.

News reports show that one Missouri worker hurt his leg in 2011 when he stepped into a shallow hole while snow was on the ground. That person's performance rating -- ostensibly satisfactory before the incident -- plummeted to "below expectation in safety" after the injury. Other workers also suffered from poor performance ratings and notices for safety violations after they reported a back injury and an ankle injury. In all, four employees in this case were disciplined at work for reporting their injuries, all because they allegedly violated safety policies at work.

Luckily, workers in Oklahoma and throughout the nation are protected from retaliation, discharge and other adverse actions just because they report a workplace injury. Further, disciplinary actions cannot be taken against those workers for supposed violations of company policy. Even if you were injured because you broke a rule, you still have the right to report without fear of reprisal.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials say that workers are protected if they file a complaint with the agency, report a work-related injury, ask for an OSHA inspection or testify in any OSHA proceedings. They are also shielded from adverse action if they raise health and safety concerns with their employers. Companies cannot discipline, fire, demote, intimidate or threaten you if you exercise your rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Source: Safety.BLR.com, "OSHA's message: Honor workers' right to report injuries" No author given, May. 22, 2014

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