Legal Protection Against Retaliatory Firing Improves Workplace Safety

64 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2020 Last revised: 3 Nov 2020

See all articles by Matthew S. Johnson

Matthew S. Johnson

Duke University - Sanford School of Public Policy

Daniel Schwab

College of the Holy Cross

Patrick Koval

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: November 2, 2020

Abstract

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

Johnson, Matthew and Schwab, Daniel and Koval, Patrick, Legal Protection Against Retaliatory Firing Improves Workplace Safety (November 2, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3619384 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3619384

Matthew Johnson (Contact Author)

Duke University - Sanford School of Public Policy ( email )

201 Science Drive
Box 90312
Durham, NC 27708-0239
United States

Daniel Schwab

College of the Holy Cross ( email )

1 College Street
Worcester, MA 01610-2395
United States

Patrick Koval

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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