The federal government requires that employers post summaries of rights under laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH) and anti-discrimination laws like Title VII at their worksites. Most states, including Nebraska, have similar requirements. But Nebraska is among a minority of states that does not require employers to post notices about an employee’s rights under our state’s workers’ compensation act. This lawyer believes that this practice needs to change in Nebraska.
My informal inspection of worksites in Nebraska has shown me that when anything is posted about workers’ compensation, it is usually a poster about treating with an occupational medicine clinic if a person is hurt at work. The problem is that if you are hurt on the job in Nebraska, you can pick your own doctor. If an employee doesn’t exercise the right to pick their own doctor, they are taking the risk of undercutting their workers’ compensation claim.
Illinois has a good poster that explains an injured employee’s rights and responsibilities under their workers’ compensation act. I particularly like the Illinois poster because it tells employees that 1) they have some right to pick their own doctor and 2) they can’t be discriminated against for filing a claim. To me, the Illinois poster reads a lot of what an attorney like me would tell a prospective client who called with a work injury claim.
But not all posters are created equal. I think Kansas provides an example of a poster that doesn’t really help employees. Though the poster is bilingual, it doesn’t really tell employees anything about their rights and responsibilities besides what they need to do to file a report of injury. The poster also encourages workers to call their employer’s workers’ compensation insurer or claims administrator for help. This is problematic, because employees and employers don’t always have the same interests in a workers’ compensation claim.
My view is that readily available, accurate and unbiased information is good for injured employees to protect their rights under any state’s workers’ compensation act. I think posters like the Illinois poster meet these qualifications. Of course, detractors might say that employees can readily find information on the internet, so posters are a relic of the 20th century.
In response, I would say that information off the internet isn’t always reliable. Part of the reason has to do with how search engines work. Marketers and lawyers try to game the system so when an injured worker is looking for a lawyer, those firms always show up in searches. Frankly, that’s part of the reason I write blog posts like the one you are reading now. Even though I try my best to explain the law accurately, I have a slant toward representing employees, so I can’t claim to be unbiased.
But a good poster or summary of rights is about as close to unbiased as you can get. Employers also have some fear of displaying unbiased information about workplace rights in the workplace. Some employers fought a poster from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) informing employees about their right to form a union.
Knowledge is power, which is why I believe all Nebraska employees should have complete, unbiased and clear information about their rights under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act readily available in their workplace.