There is a pervasive, yet often unspoken fear amongst employees, especially those who have been injured or fallen ill due to their working conditions - the fear of retaliation. This fear is not unfounded, as some employers have been known to retaliate against employees who file workers' compensation claims.
Fortunately, labor laws in Minnesota provide robust protection against such malpractices. One such key provision is section 176.82 of the Minnesota statutes, which specifically addresses the issue of retaliation against employees seeking workers' compensation benefits.
Taking a Stand Against Unfair Discharge
Subdivision 1 of section 176.82 outlines a strong stance against retaliatory discharge. Any person, who discharges or threatens to discharge an employee for seeking workers' compensation benefits, is held accountable by the law. This provision offers a safety net for employees, ensuring that they can seek deserved benefits without fear of losing their jobs.
No Obstruction Tolerated
Notably, the statute doesn't only target the act of wrongful discharge. It prohibits "intentionally obstructing an employee seeking workers' compensation benefits". This includes any acts that make it difficult for an employee to access the benefits they are rightfully entitled to. The language of the statute underscores that the spirit of the law is to create an environment where employees can freely exercise their rights without hindrance.
Damages and Compensation
Employees who have been victims of retaliatory discharge or obstruction while seeking workers' compensation benefits are entitled to seek legal recourse. The law provides that such employees are liable for damages including any reduction in workers' compensation benefits caused by such violation.
Additionally, they are entitled to recover costs and reasonable attorney fees, ensuring that they can seek justice without being burdened by legal costs. Furthermore, punitive damages may be awarded, capped at three times the amount of any compensation benefit to which the employee is entitled, which serves as a powerful deterrent against employers attempting to undermine the system.
Importantly, any damages awarded under this section cannot be offset by any workers' compensation benefits received by the employee. This ensures that the damages serve their purpose - to penalize wrongful behavior and compensate the victim, rather than simply supplementing the workers' compensation benefits.
Through section 176.82, Minnesota’s labor laws offer a significant degree of protection to employees against retaliation and obstruction in seeking workers' compensation benefits. The provision empowers employees to exercise their rights without fear, while offering substantial damages and compensation in the event of violations. It signals a strong commitment to upholding workers' rights, and serves as a stern warning to those who may seek to thwart them. The key takeaway is simple: in Minnesota, justice is not only for the powerful or influential, but for every employee who contributes their labor and skills to the growth of the economy.
Joshua Newville is a Minnesota employment lawyer, civil rights attorney, and mediator. Josh litigates and advises on such matters as wrongful termination, whistleblowers, discrimination, police misconduct, and more. He offers paid legal consultations and free online case reviews regarding employment law and civil rights.