Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Damn the Man

This is the saga of J's worker's comp claim.  Or, non-claim, as it turns out.

Some time in mid-August or early September, J came home from work and said, "I think I got a hernia at work today?"

Being the calm, rational one, I shrieked, "WHAT??"

"Yeah.  I was lifting a big spool of cable and I felt something pop."

"So what did you do?  Did you report it to your foreman?"


"Well??? What did he say???"

"He said, 'not on my fucking job, you didn't get hurt!'"

"What??  He can't do that.  That's illegal.  This is a worker's comp claim, you need to report it."

"I tried, but he refused to accept it."

"Well, he can't do that.  You need to talk to his supervisor, or call the main office, or something like that.  You can't just let it go."

"If I do that I'll get fired."

My head was about to explode right off my body at this point.  "They can't fire you for submitting a workers comp claim.  There are laws against it!"

"Baby, they do it all the time."

I fumed.  "You cannot let them get away with it.  You have to report this."

Long story short, he was intimidated by his foreman's attitude, didn't report it (thought there were witnesses to both the injury and his efforts to tell the foreman), it got worse, and a month later, it hurt so much that he couldn't lift his tool pouch without excruciating pain.  So they sent him home and told him to go to the doctor, get it fixed and go on short term disability.

So he went to the doctor.  Who confirmed that he had a double hernia and sent him to a surgeon.  Who also confirmed that he had a double hernia and scheduled him for surgery.

But all along, I was confused.  It was a workplace injury.  Why wasn't it being covered by workers comp?  What the fuck was going on??

I wasn't the only one.  The administrator at the surgeon's office was confused as well, because workers comp is billed differently from other kinds of claims.  And if it was a workplace injury, it needed to go through workers comp.

So she called the HR people at J's company, who proceeded to yell at her.  Then they ran around trying to cover their tracks by intimidating the guys on the job -- the witnesses -- into giving statements casting doubt on J's version of things.

J, being totally non-confrontational and intimidated, didn't want to make waves.  He was perfectly happy to pursue the personal-insurance-and-short-term-disability route.  But the safety manager at his company, who was walking around talking about how he was going to "bury J in court," insisted on submitting the claim through workers comp.

Which denied the claim today.  Because it was a "your word vs. theirs" thing, according to the claims rep.

So we'll submit it through our own insurance and seek short term disability for the time he needs to take off of work to recover.  Which we were willing to do all along.  We can't afford to fight it, so whatever.

This is why my great-grandfather, the proud socialist, believed in labor unions and working for the rights of the working man.  Because he knew that without them, the working man has no power.  The Big Man will always find a way to bring the little man down.  I never really thought about it before I was married to a tradesman, but now I know.  In Hawaii, a very pro-union state, J would have been protected.  In Colorado, where the union has a very weak presence and there are no union jobs to be had, he's fucked.

It makes me so mad, I don't even know what to do but sit and stew.


  1. That makes me so angry. It's just so unfair. And at this point, with them intimidating potential witnesses, and having more money than you to fight it, you're right - you're doing the only thing to do. Grrrr.

  2. AMEN sister, amen. SC has the fewest unions of any state in the country and our ridiculous Tea Party gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley was railing on about controlling the unions during the debate the other night. I just wanted to throw something at the TV. Because the real concern for most poor, rural South Carolinians is the big bad union.

    I was an officer in the National Lawyers Guild at Wake so I feel pretty strongly about all this. Grr.

  3. Sounds like a lovely company to work for.

  4. They're such assholes, it drives me insane.