SEVEN WAYS SUPERVISORS CAN THROW A BUSINESS UNDER THE BUS . . . AND NOT EVEN KNOW IT
By Kevin Ring
Supervisors need to respect the role of HR, carefully convey it to employees and be trained on their role relative to HR to handle all legal and personnel issues appropriately. Here’s why.
Supervisors play a key role in the management of injuries, return-to-work and reasonable accommodations under ADA. While supervisors may be well trained in the functional aspects of maintaining a safe workplace, reporting injuries, investigating injuries and return-to-work programs, many fall short in their interaction with injured employees and their well-meaning actions can be costly to employers and even lead to litigation. Here are seven unnecessary blunders:
1. Not reporting an injury at an employee’s request
When hard working employees are injured on the job they may ask the supervisor not to report the injury, indicating that the injury is not bad and they can work through the pain. Sometimes employees hesitate to file a Workers’ Comp claim because of pride, fear of appearing disloyal or worry about losing income. Delays in reporting can compromise an employee’s rights as well as mushroom into costly claims. Supervisors should treat all injuries consistently, not attempt to evaluate the severity of the injury, and help employees understand the importance of receiving appropriate treatment early.
2. Sends wrong message during recuperation
Since the supervisor is the person who works closest with employees, the supervisor’s role should involve contacting injured workers during recuperation. While the appropriate approach may seem obvious it often goes wrong. When the supervisor doesn’t convey compassion and concern or doesn’t communicate often enough, the injured employee is left feeling alone and begins to worry that no one cares. When that happens, a longer than necessary recovery may occur, not to mention the possibility of a lawsuit.
In other cases, supervisors may unwittingly reproach injured employees, making them feel guilty about the stress they have added to co-workers. Or, if the injury is suspicious or incurred by a troublesome employee, supervisors may goad, demanding to know when the injured employee will return to work, implying that the injury is not legitimate or suggesting the possibility of termination. An insensitive supervisor can easily provoke a disgruntled employee to seek an attorney.
Supervisors need to be empathetic, expressing concern and communicating the message that the employer cares and wants the injured employee back on the job as soon as possible. Their manner sets the tone for the entire claim.
3. Not recognizing nor communicating when a claim is going bad
Supervisors are often in the best position to understand the circumstances surrounding an individual’s response to an injury and to notice a problem at an early stage. If an injured employee is dissatisfied with the time it takes to get their checks, prescription reimbursements, or medical appointments or feels the medical care is inadequate, the supervisor should convey this to the responsible parties and request intervention. Supervisors also have access to the rumor mill and may learn that the injured employee is engaging in suspect physical activities. Supervisors need to be alert to any patterns or trends that can cause a delay in return-to-work or may suggest fraud.
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About the Author: Kevin Ring is the Lead Workers’ Compensation Analyst for the Institute of WorkComp Professionals, which trains insurance agents to help employers reduce Workers’ Compensation expenses. A licensed property and casualty insurance agent, he is the co-developer of a new Workers’ Comp software suite that will help insurance professionals in working with employers. He can be contacted at 828-274-0959 or email@example.com.