Massachusetts has a comprehensive workers’ compensation system that is designed to compensate individuals who suffer injuries or illnesses that result from conditions in the workplace. The system requires an injured employee to file a claim before benefits can be paid. In order for the workers’ compensation system to work, employees must feel free to report an injury or illness. For that reason, both federal and state statutes impose penalties on employers who discourage or deter their employees from reporting injuries. The United States Department of Labor has recently commenced a lawsuit against a Boston contractor that is alleged to have taken retaliatory actions against an employee who filed an application for workers’ compensation benefits after falling from a ladder in 2017.
The employee reported his injury and filed an application for workers’ compensation benefits payable by his employer, Tara Construction Co. According to the complaint filed by the Labor Department, Tara caused a law enforcement investigation of the worker’s immigration status that led to the worker being arrested and incarcerated. The employee had scheduled a meeting with the company president at the company offices. When he arrived, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were waiting, and they arrested the worker. According to OSHA officials, the owner of the construction firm cooperated with ICE in arranging the arrest.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act specifically prohibits retaliation against an employee who reports an on-the-job accident or makes a claim for benefits based on the injuries caused by the accident. When OSHA investigated the case of the Tara employee, it concluded that the employee had an absolute right to report both the accident and his injury and that the company deliberately tried to punish him for filing his claim.
The lawsuit asks the court to order Tara Construction to pay the employee back wages, interest and compensatory and punitive damages.