A Timeline of American Employee Rights

Library of Congress
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Protecting Workers Who Get Injured on the Job

Working on the railroad was a dangerous business for many workers. In a speech to Congress, then-president Benjamin Harrison said about railwork: “It is a reproach to our civilization that any class of American workmen, should in the pursuit of a necessary and useful vocation be subjected to a peril of life and limb as great as that of a soldier in time of war.” The Federal Employers Liability Act—which would become the foundations for states’ Worker’s Compensation laws—was enacted in 1908 "to put on the railroad industry some of the costs of the legs, arms, eyes, and lives which it consumed in its operation."