There are likely few business owners who started their companies for a reason other than to make money. Of course there are reasons that can co-exist such as making the world a better place, or providing a specific product to those who need it. However, no for-profit company will be in business long without being profitable, which often means keeping costs to an absolute minimum. To that end, many company leaders make decisions that result in cuts to employee protections, insurance and workplace safety protocols in order to boost profits. This mindset is short-sighted as these company leaders are failing to consider the potential costs of those cuts, such as increases in worker injuries, loss of production due to injured employees, litigation costs, and fines from governmental agencies. Understanding the purpose of the workers’ compensation system is the first step a company can take to not only provide protections for its workers, but also being prepared in the event a government investigator stops by the office.
Preventing injury and promoting healing
Tennessee’s workers’ compensation system is designed to help employees who are injured at work recover quickly, so that they may return to work in as short a period of time as possible after an accident. This is accomplished in part because the system is a ‘no-fault’ system that allows employers to provide employee protections without worrying about a lawsuit later down the road. Employees who are injured on the job can file a claim with their employer, whose insurance carrier will cover any treatment that the worker needs to heal from his/her injury. Employers and employees can get back to “business as usual” in a much shorter time than if they were embroiled in protracted litigation over concepts like fault and negligence. While there are certain circumstances where an employee can still file a lawsuit against their employer, the vast majority of employee injury cases can be dealt with via a much less costly, faster, administrative process.
Anyone who has been in the workforce for long, regardless of if they are on the factory floor or board room, has likely seen a colorful poster from the Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). This is because employers are required by law to post workplace safety information and information on workers’ rights. OSHA’s primary mission is to ensure American workers are provided a safe place to work, free from unreasonable hazards. OSHA encourages employers to conduct internal investigations any time an employee is injured to determine whether the accident could have been avoided, or whether changes could have lessened the severity of the injury.
If OSHA suspects that a workplace is in violation of federal workplace safety laws, it may conduct an investigation. Such an investigation would include an onsite visit by an investigator, review of company policies and procedures, and interviews of employees and managers. These investigations can take several weeks or months to complete, during which employees are subject to requests from the agency that take them away from their day to day duties.
If you are a business owner or worker and have questions about workers’ compensation laws in Tennessee, contact an attorney for help. A Nashville workers’ compensation attorney will have experience with all aspects of workplace injuries and can guide your leadership team in developing policies or defending against administrative actions.