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U.S. Steel will rescind policy that government says discourages injury reporting

| Wednesday, July 20, 2016, 5:36 p.m.

U.S. Steel Corp. agreed to rescind a policy that the government had alleged was discouraging employees from reporting workplace injuries.

The company made the change as part of a settlement with the Department of Labor, which sued U.S. Steel in February over the policy, and the United Steelworkers union, which filed a complaint over workers who were suspended without pay for not immediately reporting they had been hurt on the job.

The Pittsburgh-based steel producer confirmed the settlement Wednesday, but spokeswoman Sarah Cassella declined to comment. Labor Department officials could not be reached for comment.

U.S. Steel agreed to replace its policy that required immediate injury reporting with one that provides for reporting only after a worker is aware of an injury, the union said.

“This is an excellent settlement,” Tom Conway, USW international vice president, said in a written statement. “Not only does it give justice to three brave union members who stood up for their rights, but it will lead to more complete and accurate injury records and improved safety.”

The Downtown-based union, which represents about 18,000 U.S. Steel employees, said the case stemmed from incidents in 2014 in which workers were suspended without pay from plants when they failed to immediately report injuries they said they received while working.

Two of the incidents occurred in February 2014 at facilities in the U.S. Steel's Mon Valley Works, according to the Labor Department's lawsuit. A third worker covered under the settlement was injured at U.S. Steel's Lorain Tubular operations in Ohio.

In one of the incidents at Mon Valley Works, Jeff Walters, a utility technician at the company's Clairton coke works, discovered a splinter in his thumb, which he pulled out, the lawsuit stated. Two days later, Walters' thumb and hand were swollen, and he received treatment for an infection. Later that day, Walters reported the incident to a supervisor and was suspended without pay for five days. His suspension was later reduced to two days.

In another instance, John Armstrong, a laborer at the Irvin Plant in West Mifflin, bumped his head on a low beam, the government's lawsuit stated. He was wearing a hard hat at the time and didn't notice any pain until four days later, when he sought treatment for stiffness in his right shoulder. When Armstrong's union representative reported the injury to the company, Armstrong was suspended for five days without pay.

Under the settlement announced Wednesday, the company agreed to give the workers back pay and overturn their suspensions.

Alex Nixon is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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