The U.S. Department of Labor has sued U.S. Steel Corp. to reverse disciplinary action the company took against two employees for violating its injury reporting policy.
In 2014, the employees reported injuries that may have occurred on the job a few days earlier. According to the DOL, the employees were unaware they had suffered injuries at the time of the incidents, as symptoms took time to develop. When they later reported their injuries, U.S. Steel allegedly suspended both workers without pay for violating its immediate injury reporting policy.
Richard Mendelson, the Philadelphia regional administrator at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), says the company’s policy “discourages employees from reporting injuries for fear of retaliation.”
“Because workers don’t always recognize injuries at the time they occur, the policy provides an incentive for employees to not report injuries once they realize they should, since they are concerned that the timing of their report would violate the company’s policy and result in some kind of reprimand,” he said in a statement.
Jessica Franklin, external communications and community affairs at U.S. Steel, tells USGNN.com™ the company won’t comment on the matter.
Both workers suffered injuries in February 2014.
One employee, a full-time utility technician at U.S. Steel’s Clairton, Pa., plant, allegedly removed a small splinter from his thumb. Two days later, his thumb and hand were swollen and he received medical treatment for an infection. When he reported the incident, the company suspended him for five days without pay for violating the company’s policy, later reducing the suspension to two days.
Later that month, a full-time employee at the company’s West Mifflin, Pa., plant, allegedly bumped his head on a low beam. He was wearing a hardhat and claims he didn’t feel any pain or discomfort at the time. However, days later, he experienced stiffness in his right shoulder and sought medical treatment, which was reported to U.S. Steel as a possible worksite injury. He was also suspended for five days without pay.
Both workers filed complaints with OSHA alleging U.S. Steel had suspended them in retaliation for reporting workplace injuries. The agency found the company violated the anti-discrimination provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, or Section 11(c), when U.S. Steel used its immediate reporting policy as a basis for sanctioning employees who reported injuries “late.”
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware and seeks the following, according to the DOL:
– Enjoining U.S. Steel from violating Section 11(c)(1) of the Act;
– Directing the company to rescind and nullify its immediate reporting policy;
– Permanently enjoining the company from enforcing an injury or illness reporting policy that requires employees to report their workplace injuries or illnesses earlier than seven calendar days after the injured or ill employee becomes aware of his or her injury or illness;
– Rescinding the discipline and sanction of the two employees;
– Directing the company to compensate the complainants for any, and all lost wages and benefits including interest, as well as compensatory damages; and
– Directing the company to post notices at all of its work sites for 60 days stating that it will not discriminate or retaliate against employees involved in activities protected by Section 11 (c) of the Act.
The DOL’s Regional Office of the Solicitor in Philadelphia is litigating the case.