Could a job change eliminate asbestos compensation rights?

People often used to be in a position to find a job with a good employer and then continue working for that same company for the rest of their lives. Businesses often rewarded worker loyalty with pensions and regular raises. Those practices have long since tapered off, leaving workers at the mercy of an increasingly competitive global employment market.

As a result, workers often have to move to new jobs to obtain a raise or a promotion, and they are constantly at risk of having their jobs outsourced to an international location where workers don’t command as much in wages. Due to these shifting conditions, those who have performed dangerous blue-collar jobs in the past may have long since moved on to a different career or at least a job with a different company. Therefore, someone may have worked with asbestos years ago but may have since changed jobs, possibly multiple times.

Those diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, like mesothelioma, may worry about whether they have any rights to compensation because of their exit from the company that exposed them to this toxic substance. Can someone who has moved on to a new position elsewhere hold a prior employer accountable for exposing them to asbestos?

Yes, companies are liable after employment ends

With few exceptions, workers sickened by exposure to asbestos have a right to seek compensation from their current or former employers. This right is so strong that it persists even after someone retires and when companies close or file for bankruptcy. Businesses typically have to fund asbestos trusts if they no longer generate enough revenue to cover future claims made by workers that the company’s practices previously exposed.

There is a known delay between asbestos exposure and the development of severe illnesses. Sometimes, people can go decades between the time of exposure and when a doctor diagnoses them with mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that starts in the linings of the organs. Other forms of cancer, including lung cancer, could also be a byproduct of prior workplace asbestos exposure.

Workers who can connect a medical issue to prior job-related hazards may have grounds to hold their former employers accountable. In some cases, workers may be able to apply for workers’ compensation benefits. Other times, an asbestos lawsuit against the company or a claim against a trust funded by the business will be necessary to secure appropriate compensation. Ultimately, understanding the rules that help protect workers can make a big difference for those exposed to dangerous substances on the job.

FindLaw Network

View All
Practice areas