In our last post, we mentioned a recent report by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health which suggested possible criminal prosecution for private sanitation companies who contribute to a worker’s death because of indifference or willful disregard of a legal obligation. The suggestion is an interesting one, and raises the issue of what civil remedies there may be for workers harmed under such circumstances.
Generally speaking, workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy available to workers injured on the job. The reason for this is that workers’ compensation is premised upon an exchange of promises between employer and employee that the latter will give up the right to sue in court in exchange for predictable compensation for workplace injuries. Most of the time, then, a worker may not sue an employer for damages following a workplace injury, but it is possible.