Legal Protection Against Retaliatory Firing Improves Workplace Safety
64 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2020 Last revised: 3 Nov 2020
Date Written: November 2, 2020
Workplace safety policies are designed to ensure that employers internalize the costs of injuries, but employers can undermine these policies with threats of dismissal. We show that states' adoption of the public policy exception to at-will employment---an exception forbidding employers from discharging workers for filing workers' compensation claims or whistleblowing about illegal conditions---led to a substantial reduction in serious injuries. The widespread adoption of the public policy exception explains 13 percent of the overall decline in fatal injury rates between 1979 and 1994. The exception averted more injuries at unionized workplaces than at non-unionized workplaces.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation