The workers’ compensation system is a tradeoff that is supposed to be beneficial for both workers and employers. Workers who are injured on the job are promised access to medical care and benefits in exchange for waiving their right to sue their employer for injuries. Employers are given a shield against legal liability by agreeing to pay for treatment and compensation of those who get injured.
This is how things are supposed to work. But sadly, employers often have too much power over the entire process, and that can make it difficult or impossible for their workers to receive the care and compensation they deserve. According to a recent news article, luxury automaker Tesla is currently under fire for the ways in which it allegedly went to great lengths to control costs by denying workers’ compensation claims, underreporting injuries and intimidating workers who tried to speak up.
The company set up its own on-site medical clinic at its auto factory in California. It then contracted with an established medical practice to run the clinic. According to former employees of the medical clinic, Tesla’s workers’ compensation manager coordinated very closely with the director of the medical clinic to dictate how individual cases were resolved (often without adequate treatment), and the clinic director was all too eager to comply in order to keep his contract with the company.
What this meant practically is that:
- Legitimate workers’ compensation claims were denied or greatly underpaid
- Injured workers were sent back to work immediately without any light-duty restrictions so that Tesla didn’t need to pay claims
- Injured workers often had to pay for their own medical care, without reimbursement
- Injured workers who physically couldn’t return to work were forced to apply for government disability benefits to make ends meet.
- By underreporting injuries, Tesla was able to claim an improving safety record in the workplace while saving money on workers’ compensation costs
Tesla’s alleged actions in this case are particularly egregious, but milder versions of this behavior are sadly common across the country. For these and other reasons, if you have been injured at work, it is a good idea to seek the help of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney when pursing a claim.