Valerie Johnson spoke at the 2008 Annual Conference of the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee (LCC), which was held in Seattle. Valerie’s talk was part of a session concerning health and safety for workers. She presented a paper, written with Narendra Ghosh, titled “How Can Unions Protect Injured Workers?”
Summary: This paper discusses some common problems faced by injured workers and the remedies available to them. First, workers are often blamed for their own injuries, and then disciplined or discharged for violating safety rules. Those covered by a CBA can contest those sanctions through arbitration. Second, workers who have recovered from their accident may be denied from returning to their jobs on account of their injury. In some cases, such a denial is unlawful under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Third, workers injured by unsafe workplaces may be retaliated against if they report the safety hazard to their employer. Retaliation can be challenged under OSHA § 11(c), and often also under state law. Finally, those assisting injured workers should always bear in mind the benefits available under workers’ compensation law and the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).