Attention! Iowa’s Workers’ Compensation laws changed July 1, 2017. This article’s information may be out of date. Visit our Workers’ Compensation Page for more information.
If you are injured on the job and are a union member, your union can help you with some things. However, there are also things your union cannot do for you. Follow the tips below for filing a workers’ comp. claim if you were hurt on the job and are part of a union.
(1) Report your injury to your union steward and the employer
You should keep your union steward informed of your work injury and whether it is impacting your employment status. There may come a time when you have to get the union involved if you are terminated by the employer, or the employer violates the collective bargaining agreement. While it’s a good idea to keep your steward informed, DO NOT rely on your union steward to report your injury to the employer for you. You have 90 days from the date of your injury to give notice to your supervisor that (a) you were hurt; and (b) the injury was work related. Do not simply tell your union steward about your injury—report it directly to the employer.
(2) Have your union steward with you during conversations with the employer about your employment status
If your work injury is affecting your ability to work, you may be called into meetings with the employer about your work status—light duty, accommodations, termination, etc. If you are represented by an attorney, and you know about these meetings in advance, keep the attorney informed of these upcoming meetings because he or she may want to be involved. Unfortunately, most of these “meetings” are not scheduled in advance—the boss comes up and says, “I’d like to see you in my office.” If you are represented by a union, it’s likely that you have the right to have your union steward present during that meeting—so ask for the steward to be present. It’s always a good idea to have another set of ears in those meetings.
(3) File a grievance if you are terminated
One of the things the judge will consider in determining how much money to award in a worker’s compensation case is whether you are actually motivated to work. For example, if you’re off work after an injury, the judge will want to hear and see evidence that the reason you are off work is because your injury has impacted your ability to work, NOT because you simply don’t want to work. That is why it is important to engage in an aggressive job search if you are terminated from the job where you got hurt. If you are terminated, and you are also represented by the union, you should talk to your union steward about filing a grievance. Doing so may not get you your job back, but will demonstrate to the judge that you are motivated to return to work.
(4) Go back to work and ask your Business Agent about possible accommodations
Even if you have restrictions, go back on the books to see if you can get work within those restrictions. Talk to your BA about the restrictions, and see if he is able to work with any employers about an accommodation. Again, this goes to that motivation factor. A judge is not going to take your word for it that you are unemployable—you have to prove it.
(5)Do your own job search
It’s possible that a work injury has made it impossible to work within your given trade. In that situation, the union probably isn’t going to be calling with work. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to look for work—you do. You’ll need to start your own job search and document it.
(6) Don’t just rely on the union steward when you’re hurt at work—contact a workers’ compensation attorney
The union steward may be helpful in terms of getting accommodations, filings grievances, and enforcing the collective bargaining agreement, but they will not be able to secure workers’ compensation benefits for you from the work comp insurance company or represent you in a claim. We recommend you contact a workers’ compensation attorney to make sure you are getting all of the benefits you are entitled to.
If you are a union member and have been injured at work, contact RSH Legal today for a FREE consultation.