Nonprofit Shouldn’t Mean Non-Compliant

August 16, 2017

Workplace injuries can happen anywhere, and a feature story in a California newspaper earlier this summer shows that workers at nonprofit organizations are not immune from on-the-job risks.

The story in the Sacramento Bee highlighted the danger that workers at nonprofits face—specifically those at Goodwill Industries, which has been cited for numerous safety violations by the state and fined a record amount after the tragic workplace death of a young employee last year.


Lack of Safety Highlighted

After an investigation into the September 2016 death of the worker (who was crushed by a piece of heavy equipment) Cal-OSHA, the state agency tasked with protecting and improving worker health and safety, slapped Goodwill with six violations, including one deemed “willful-serious” with potential criminal liability.

The violations included more than $106,000 in fines. In the past ten years, the Sacramento Goodwill branch has been cited twenty-three additional times for other workplace safety violations.

The Cal-OSHA investigation found that Goodwill did not provide employees with adequate training for the equipment in use and that they had no safety procedures for employees. There were parallels to this worker’s death in a 2008 accident at an unrelated Goodwill facility in Tacoma, where a twenty-seven-year-old died in another heavy machinery accident.


Workers Need Protection

Employers sometimes play hardball when their own culpability in a workplace accident is at issue, and a nonprofit can react the same as any other employer. In the Goodwill case, the company actually went so far as to challenge the state’s approval of an employee’s unemployment compensation claim after he was fired by Goodwill.

That worker, who witnessed the accident that killed his co-worker, claims that he was fired for cooperating with investigators and providing them with information about the lack of safety procedures and training at Goodwill. He had repeatedly complained about—and documented—safety problems during his employment at Goodwill and said that not only was he fired for being a whistleblower, but that the organization has launched a smear campaign against him.

Reporting on the case, as well as Cal-OSHA’s intervention on his behalf in his unemployment claim, seems to support this. He’s currently pursuing a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner.


Beyond Workers Comp

Many employees mistakenly believe that workers compensation insurance covers all workplace injuries and that it covers them completely. They also believe that being in the workers comp system or accepting payments from it prevents them from seeking additional compensation.

None of this is true in all cases, and an injured employee should talk to a knowledgeable workplace injury lawyer before accepting any settlement. If an injury was caused by some kind of negligence, an employee may be able to pursue a personal injury case against the responsible party, whether that means a co-worker, an employer, or some other individual or legal entity.

With negligence alleged in the Sacramento case, that worker’s family might also be able to pursue a wrongful death claim.


California Workplace Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been hurt on the job and suspect negligence was involved, get in touch with an experienced workplace injury lawyer.

The team at Kohan & Bablove,Injury Attorneys can help you understand what’s involved in this kind of claim, and we offer a free consultation to discuss each case. Call us at 844-404-2400 or fill out the online contact form at the bottom of the page.