Early Legislation

But all of this began to change in the United States in the early-1900s. Books like The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and many other pieces of journalism attempted to draw attention to workplace conditions and the vulnerability of workers.

At the beginning of the 1900s, the first U.S. states began to pass workers’ compensation legislation, after many governments in Europe and Australia had already done so. The rest of the states and the federal government soon followed.

Workers’ compensation laws impose absolute liability on employers for any workplace injury, regardless of who is at fault. They also establish or regulate insurance funds that pay for workplace injuries on behalf of the insured employer.

Workers’ compensation is said to be the exclusive remedy for injuries on the job, so in theory there is no need for a worker to sue over an injury.