Focus on safety–Not reducing claims–When discussing workers’ comp

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in Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Performance Reviews

Employers naturally want to reduce their workers’ compensation claims—it means lower insurance costs, less lost time and higher productivity. But be careful how you frame the issue. Don’t discourage legitimate claims or retaliate against those who file claims.

When speaking with workers or training them, couch the discussion in terms of working safely rather than reducing workers’ comp claims. When you do talk about recent claims, focus on accident prevention and lessons learned.

On the other hand, it’s perfectly OK to discourage false claims—after all, such claims can be a substantial drag on company profitability.

Recent case: James Killis worked as a knight in shining armor for a Chicago-area Medieval Times dinner restaurant and show. He filed a series of workers’ compensation claims for show injuries. Then he got a negative evaluation.

Shortly after, management held a meeting with its knights and squires, discouraging false workers’ compensation claims. Then Killis filed another claim. His performance continued to decline and eventually he was fired.

Killis sued, alleging retaliation for filing the last claim. But the court tossed out his claim. It said that because his performance problems predated the claim, there was no causal link between the claim and the evaluations. Plus, simply discussing false claims wasn’t proof the company intended to retaliate against employees who filed legitimate workers’ compensation claims. (Killis v. Medieval Knights, LLC, No. 04-C-6297, ND IL, 2007)

Final note: When discussing false claims, be careful that you don’t directly accuse an employee of making such claims. If it turns out you are wrong, your accusations may be defamation under Illinois law.

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