The changing American workforce requires workers’ compensation professionals and stakeholders to step outside their comfort zones and challenge stereotypes and bias. This includes the ability to work with people from different ethnic backgrounds to promote a workplace dedicated to safety. Achieving cultural competence requires full engagement from leaders within the company and insurance carriers.
Common Cultural Barriers to An Effective Work Comp Program
The great American melting pot continues to change. This includes immigration from different parts of the world with people who seek their pursuit of happiness and a better life in the United States. These changes impact workers’ compensation programs based on barriers that need to be broken down. Common barriers include:
- Mistrust of the government, including courts and government officials. Workers’ compensation programs involve a component of government involvement, including industrial commissions and judges. A mistrust of these officials can impact how immigrants perceive justice.
- Perceptions within one’s community by ethnic groups following a work injury. Even in instances where an injury is temporary, there is an underlying stigma attached in some communities that transcends the confines of the law and a workers’ compensation act. Lack of self-worth following an injury trickles down to prolonged medical care and receipt of indemnity benefits.
- Inherent risk of injury to new immigrant populations. Countless studies demonstrate non-white and/or non-English speaking populations suffer work injuries at a greater frequency than Caucasian and/or English speaking populations. Like immigrants from Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s, today’s immigrants tend to have fewer transferable job skills as whole and gravitate toward positions resulting in a higher frequency of injury.