Employers, do your safety policies and procedures require employees to immediately report their injuries? Do you discipline employees for failing to follow your safety policies and procedures?

Most employers with safety programs in place probably answered “yes” to both of those questions and probably believe that both of those propositions are central to managing their safety programs. Standing on their own, each of those propositions is fine. However, applying the discipline policy to an instance where an employee fails to immediately report an injury can run afoul of OSHA’s prohibition on employer retaliation.

Last month, the Secretary of Labor filed a lawsuit against U.S. Steel Corporation, Inc. (U.S. Steel) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware on behalf of two U.S. Steel employees because U.S. Steel allegedly retaliated against them for failing to immediately report their workplace injuries, as required by company policy.

The complaint alleges, among other things, that U.S. Steel’s immediate reporting policy “discourages employees from reporting injuries as soon as they realize they have been injured because they must risk violating the company’s temporally stringent requirement under its immediate reporting policy.” Further, the complaint alleges that U.S. Steel’s immediate reporting policy “violates the governing regulations establishing a recordkeeping system for recording workplace injuries and illnesses by creating a barrier for reasonable employees to report workplace injuries and illnesses.” Accordingly, the Secretary of Labor seeks to reverse the disciplinary action taken against the employees and enjoin U.S. Steel from enforcing its immediate reporting policy and to nullify it.

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