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Injured worker compensated after being forced to return to work

Certain safety standards must be upheld in every New York workplace to protect employees -- not just from workplace injuries but also from intimidation and harassment that might follow such an injury. Injured workers should not be faced with the option of either returning to work while injured and risking possible further injury, or being punished by their employer.

This unfortunate scenario was a reality for one New York railroad worker. In 2009, this worker injured his hand while on the job. The injury was severe enough that he needed to seek medical attention. After reporting the injury to his supervisors, he was urged to continue his work instead of going to a doctor.

The worker decided to see a doctor anyway and received several stitches for his wound. His doctor advised the worker not to lift heavy objects and to keep the hand dry and out of chemicals until the sutures healed. However, his job required him to lift heavy objects and use chemicals, so the doctor provided written notice to the railroad explaining these restrictions.

However, this worker was still ordered to return to work. The worker reported the railroad's actions to the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This past week, OSHA has fined the railroad just over $18,000. Of that amount, the worker was awarded $10,000 in punitive damages.

This case shows that no worker should be forced to return to work after a workplace injury that prevents them from doing his or her job. All employees deserve the protections given to them under the law so they can follow their doctor's orders and return to work ready and able to do their job.

Source: The Daily Cortlandt, "Metro-North Fined in Injured Harmon Worker Suit," Jessica Glenza, March 14, 2012

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