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Can I Be Fired for Bringing a Claim for a Workplace Accident?

Posted on February 10, 2016 by Kelly Wolford
construction site accident

When working at a construction site in Albany, Syracuse or elsewhere in New York, a worker can face many different kinds of accident and injury risks, from being struck by heavy machinery to suffering a fall from a roof, scaffolding or ladder.

A worker’s safety can’t be guaranteed at all times – especially on a construction site. However, construction site owners and contractors should cultivate a safety-focused attitude among workers and take steps to reduce the likelihood of a serious construction site accident.

New York’s labor laws and other occupational safety guidelines and policies are meant to help keep construction workers safe while on the job. Unfortunately, some companies find these regulations, laws and policies too cumbersome or too costly.

These construction site owners and contractors may ignore safety regulations and laws and encourage workers to simply “get the job done” as quickly and as inexpensively as possible – even if it means putting the worker’s own health and safety at risk.

When Safety Becomes Too Inconvenient or Too Costly, Workers Suffer

Workplace accidents increase when safety laws and regulations are ignored in the name of speed and cost. Fatal workplace accidents are financially and emotionally costly for the families of the workers.

However, even non-fatal workplace injuries can upend a worker and his or her family for months or even years. An accident resulting in a permanent disability can drive a family into poverty.

To make matters worse, New York is an “employment-at-will” state. In other words, with few exceptions, an employer may terminate a worker’s employment at any time for any non-prohibited reason.

Believing that workers will not report the violations that led to their injuries for fear of losing their jobs, construction site owners and contractors may be encouraged to violate labor laws and regulations – even if workers’ safety is comprised.

Safety Laws Applicable to New York Construction Workers

As a rule, you are not permitted to sue your employer directly for injuries you suffer on the job in New York. Instead, you are restricted to seeking workers’ compensation benefits. However, New York’s labor laws provide exceptions to this rule under specific circumstances.

A variety of New York laws are designed to protect construction workers and promote their safety on the job site. Violations of these laws may provide the injured worker’s (or the deceased worker’s family) the ability to bring a lawsuit against one or more responsible parties.

A construction site accident attorney can assist workers and their families if the worker has been injured by a violation of one or more of these laws. The laws include:

  • New York Labor Law § 200 – This imposes a general duty on employers and others to provide a safe working environment for their workers.
  • New York Labor Law § 240(1) – Construction site owners and contractors are required to protect workers from elevation-related injuries such as those caused by falls by providing them with sufficient safety devices.
  • New York Labor Law § 240(2) – This provides protections similar to those in 240(1) to workers who were injured in certain scaffolding accidents.
  • New York Labor Law § 241(1-5) – This law provides protections and rights to workers injured in certain construction, demolition and/or excavation activities.
  • New York Labor Law § 241-a – Owners, contractors and certain other individuals and/or entities must provide for the protection and safety of workers injured in stairwells, elevator shafts and/or hatchways during the construction or demolition of a building.
  • New York Labor Law § 241(6) – This requires owners and certain others to provide for a safe construction job site wherever construction, demolition, or excavation activity is going on by complying with Rule 23 of the New York State Industrial Code. The law imposes a general duty to reasonably and adequately provide for the safety of workers and other who “lawfully” frequent such jobsites.

Can My Employer Really Fire Me for Pursuing Compensation Under the New York Labor Laws?

As noted above, New York law gives employers a great deal of leeway to fire employees for little reason or no reason at all. However, as any experienced construction accident attorney can affirm, you cannot be fired or retaliated against for filing a lawsuit based on a violation of the New York labor laws.

Additionally, the law prohibits employers from retaliating against you for bringing unsafe or dangerous work conditions that violate New York’s labor laws and safety regulations to the attention of appropriate authorities.

“Retaliation” includes not just firing you but taking any negative or discriminatory action against you for filing a lawsuit you are legally entitled to bring under the labor laws.

These actions might include demoting you, assigning you undesirable tasks that are outside of your job description to “teach you a lesson,” harassing you or otherwise creating a hostile work environment for you based on the fact that you filed a construction accident lawsuit.

How Can a New York Construction Accident Attorney Help You?

You should never suffer a construction site injury in silence. You do not have to tolerate conduct that threatens your health and well-being.

You may be anxious following a construction site accident caused by a violation of worker safety laws. You may also wonder what your employer will do to you if others find out about its unsafe practices.

To ease your concerns, you should contact a construction accident attorney right away.

The Albany construction accident law firm of Powers & Santola, LLP, are here to assist construction workers who are injured because of unsafe behavior and practices at construction sites.

We will fight aggressively for you and pursue the compensation you are entitled to receive under New York’s labor laws. We will dedicate ourselves to protecting your rights and your job from any unfair and unlawful retaliatory actions your employer may take.

If you or a loved one has been injured at a construction site by one or more safety laws or guidelines, contact our office immediately by telephone or by contacting us online. We serve clients in Albany, Syracuse and throughout New York.