NEPA lawyers explain what rights workers have
The U.S. Department of Labor recently launched an investigation against a Luzerne County manufacturing company that fired an employee in retaliation for repeatedly requesting safety equipment from the company after sustaining a workplace injury. Sadly, such cases and workplace safety violations happen more often than many people might realize, according to Mary Anne O. Lucas, a Northeastern Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney.
The employee was fired after “raising safety concerns and asking several times for safety gloves to operate a shredder and baler,” according to an announcement recently released by the U.S. Department of Labor. “Prior to the employee suffering injury while operating the machine, their supervisor denied multiple requests for protective equipment.”
An investigation conducted by the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found the company failed to have proper safety protocols designed to prevent workplace injuries. In addition, the worker who was terminated sustained a hand injury due to not having safety gloves, despite requesting them several times.
In response, the U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against the company and its owner in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Scranton, according to the department’s statement.
Can companies fire workers for reporting safety violations?
Attorney Kyle Stelmack of O’Malley & Langan says, “The short answer is no. Federal law prohibits companies from terminating employees for reporting safety violations or requesting safety equipment (protective gloves, hardhats, protective eyewear, etc.), depending on the nature of a particular job.”
“Employers who retaliate against workers for raising valid safety concerns are breaking the law and creating an unsafe work environment for all of their workers,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Michael Rivera in Philadelphia in the statement released by the U.S. Department of Labor. “Employees have a right to a safe and healthful workplace, and must never fear that reporting their concerns will cost them their jobs.”
How common are workplace safety violations?
While many businesses work hard to make their companies a safe place to work, others do not make worker safety a top priority. Each year, an estimated 2.8 million workplace injuries occur at private companies, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This doesn’t include workplace injuries that occur in local, state, or federal government workplaces. As a result, many more municipal and government workers get hurt on the job every year, according to the National Safety Council.
In many cases, workplace injuries occur due to unsafe working conditions. Some injuries occur due to lack of safety measures like protective equipment (ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE), etc.) or poor ergonomic equipment that does not prevent workplace injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome or other repetitive motion injuries. Other workplace injuries occur due to a single incident, such as falling from a height (unsecured ladders, roofs, etc.), unmarked hazards (objects left on the floor in a workplace), being crushed by a falling object or injured by unsafe equipment.
How can a lawyer help?
“Having an attorney on your side after a serious workplace injury or when you have been wrongfully terminated for raising reasonable concerns about workplace safety can make a dramatic difference in the outcome of your case,” explains attorney Todd. J. O’Malley, founder of O’Malley & Langan Law Offices. “As your lawyers, we can help ensure that your rights are not violated and that you receive the financial compensation you deserve.”
The workers’ compensation lawyers at O'Malley & Langan have decades of experience dealing with complex legal cases throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania and beyond. As a result, we’re familiar with state and federal laws that have been expressly designed to protect workers. We understand how the legal system works and how to make it work for you. That’s why we have such a strong track record of success in cases involving workplace safety violations and workplace injuries.
Learn more about how our law firm can help you. Simply contact us and schedule a free case evaluation. We’ll take the time to listen to you and answer your questions. There’s no obligation to hire us but you’ll finally enjoy some peace of mind.
Meet with us in person at any of our three offices, conveniently located in Scranton, Pittston, and Towanda or, if you prefer to connect remotely, telephone and video conferences are also available.