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Incentive Programs can result in discrimination

A new memorandum by OSHA published on Monday of this week seeks to clarify issues regarding safety incentives that may actually be illegal.

At issue is the fact that certain types of incentive programs would actually discourage employees from reporting injuries which is not only discrimination and illegal but also puts everyone at risk.

The memorandum goes through the obvious violations of employees reporting injuries and in some manner being disciplined for doing so (because the way they got the injury was a violation of company policy, because the way that they reported it wasn’t in keeping with company policies, etc…).

In the fourth example, however, it covers incentive “programs that unintentionally or intentionally provide employees an incentive to not report injuries. For example, an employer might enter all employees who have not been injured in the previous year in a drawing to win a prize, or a team of employees might be awarded a bonus if no one from the team is injured over some period of time.”

Well-intentioned as these incentive programs may be, they essentially cause the employee who is injured to hold back the information from his employer either out of peer pressure (all my co-workers will miss out on the prize) or out of a desire to get some kind of reward (if I don’t report it I’ll qualify for the free lunch).

Obvious examples of this type of illegal incentive program would be something like “If we can achieve 90 days without injury, everyone will get the company will buy everyone lunch.” If you do get injured, you’ll be motivated to not report the injury because if you do everyone will lose out on the free lunch (or whatever the prize may be).

If you have questions about whether or not your incentive program is legal and beneficial, or for ideas on how to put together an incentive program that doesn’t discriminate against the whistleblower, OSHA has a phone number that you can call: (202) 693-2199

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