The growth of low-wage and precarious work, one of the many factors of increasing inequality, has deepened the imbalance of power in U.S. workplaces, leaving ever more workers vulnerable to retaliation – being fired, punished, and intimidated in any number of ways – when they seek compensation and care for their work-related injuries and illnesses. Although many state and federal laws have recognized the problem, they have not, in practice, provided an effective solution. Impunity for retaliation has become the norm.
This brief looks at the many ways retaliation and intimidation by employers, and the very structure of precarious work arrangements, effectively deters many injured and ill workers from asserting their rights, while existing anti-retaliation laws fail to hold employers accountable. The brief concludes with some, but certainly not all, policy recommendations for improving legal protections for injured and ill workers who exercise their rights, free from fear of retaliation, and for creating an accessible and dependable way for workers to hold employers accountable and deter further violations of their rights.