This is the first of a three part series. We examine what an employee can do when he or she is discriminated against for making a claim under Washington’s Workers’ Compensation laws (also known as Industrial Insurance Act). An employee has many protections under Washington’s employment laws available. However, fighting back can be hard, so we recommend you speak to an experienced employment lawyer. Each case is unique so please feel free to contact us to set up a time to talk.
Washington Employment Laws Protect You Against Retaliation
Here are just a few examples of the type of issues that employees might see when they are facing retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
- Worker makes a claim. Worker is given light duty. Worker is ready to return to full duty. Worker is terminated for tardiness or no-show no-calls that occurred over a year ago.
- Worker is hurt. Worker makes claim. Worker is placed in a room all day with no work. Must just sit in the room. Worker either quits or is fired shortly thereafter.
- Worker is hurt. Employer becomes aware that the worker is hurt. Employer fires worker for a violation of workplace rule that is not enforced anywhere else.
In all these scenarios we see two common issues:
- the employer thinks an employee will file a claim or the employee has already filed a claim and the employer knows it, and
- the employer takes some unfavorable action against the employee, for example, firing the employee, laying off the employee, or demoting, failing to promote, unwarranted poor evaluation, change to job duties, harassment, change in working hours, or a change in pay.
Once these two elements exist, the employee should next determine what they can do.
What Should an Employee Do?
Washington’s Workers’ Compensation laws prohibits discrimination based on an employee asserting his or her rights under the Industrial Insurance Act. However, an employee must act fast and contact a lawyer immediately. The law only allows 90-day timeline to file a complaint. After a complaint is filed, an investigation is initiated. An employee will get a determination to the investigation within 90 days of the complaint being filed. Sometimes it might take a little longer, so be patient, but follow up.
If you think you have been discriminated against or retaliated against then act fast and file a complaint. You can find a copy of the complaint form here: Workers Compensation Discrimination Form.
The biggest challenge to this process is the short 90 day period to file a complaint. Often times, employees come to the lawyer long after the 90 days have passed. Remember an employee also has other options which we will discuss in future posts.