Frequently Asked Questions about Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law

Employer Obligations Under Workers' Compensation

Many employees are aware of basic procedures they must follow when they are injured on the job, such as notifying their employer and filing a claim form. What they may not know is that their employer has additional obligations under the workers' compensation system. These duties can range anywhere from providing employees with claim forms in a timely manner to addressing harassment in the workplace. Failure to comply with these obligations can lead to fines and even civil or criminal liability.

The first and most basic expectation of employers is that they participate in the workers' compensation system. Each state has their own requirements about which businesses must participate, but usually, only very small businesses are excluded. An employer that is required to participate but fails to carry insurance for their employees is subject to fines and civil or criminal liability.

An employer who participates in workers' compensation usually has certain obligations towards employees and must submit reports related to workers' compensation. The obligations towards employees might include posting a sign stating that the employer is in compliance with workers' compensation and providing an injured employee with a claim form within a certain period of time. The reporting requirements could include providing a statement for every injury claim or providing more general reports on the number of accidence which have occurred.

Naturally, employers are expected to provide emergency medical care for employees but they are usually also expected to provide ongoing medical attention and to cooperate with rehabilitation plans. In some states employers will even be required to provide rehabilitation counseling for employees who will miss work for a certain period of time. The term "rehabilitation" can be used to include more than just medical needs- it could include vocational training. The idea is that this is what the employee needs in order to become productive again- whether it be in their old position or in a new one.

An expectation that goes hand in hand with the obligation to cooperate with the employee's rehabilitation plan is the duty not to retaliate against an employee just because they made a claim for workers' compensation benefits or because they require certain accommodations. In order to keep employers from taking retaliatory actions, states may allow the employee to take certain actions including bringing a lawsuit, particularly if the employee is fired in retaliation for bringing a claim. If an employee is fired they will usually have the right to an administrative hearing or they will have the opportunity to sue their employer for wrongful discharge.

In general, employers don't have a legal duty to make sure that no one gets hurt in the workplace. If other employees are not properly supervised or if there is not adequate security, this does not give rise to a suit against the employer. These are the kind of negligence claims which are generally barred by workers' compensation. There can be exceptions, however when an employer intentionally creates an unsafe work environment. Also, employers have some responsibility to deal with issues which create a hostile work environment like sexual harassment. If an employer is aware of the conditions, or should be aware of them, and fails to act, then they may be personally liable for an injury that results.

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