Can I sue my employer for making me grind walls without providing me a dust mask?

UPDATED: Apr 27, 2012

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Can I sue my employer for making me grind walls without providing me a dust mask?

I do commercial tile work for a fairly large company. We had installed the wrong kind of grout (which my boss also told me to do) and now we have to grind it out with an electric grinder which causes a lot of dust. I tried to refuse doing the work without the dust mask but he said if I didn’t do it I would be fired. By the end of the day I was covered with white dust and lightheaded.

Asked on April 27, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

It is not clear that you could effectively sue. While provision of unsafe working conditions can lead to liability, in this case, you apparently knew it was unsafe but elected to do the work anyway. (You could, after all, have declined and accepted the risk of termination.) If you chose to do the work knowing of the risk, that could be considered contributory or comparative negligence, or else assumption of the risk--that is, that you contributed to the hazard--which reduces your ability to recover compensation.

Also, while you were lightheaded, if you did not suffer any significant or lasting injury, there is nothing to sue for--the amount of compensation you could recover for short-lived light-headedness would not pay for the cost of a lawsuit.

If you have reason to believe you have suffered some injury or illness, it would be worthwhile consulting with a personal injury attorney about the situation, but you would still need to bear in mind that your choice to do the work when you had qualms most likely weakens your case.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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