When you look at workplace accidents and injuries, you often find that workers were forced to work in dangerous conditions for a long time before they actually got hurt. It can leave you scratching your head, wondering why they would put up with it when they risked life-changing and even fatal injuries. Why wouldn’t they refuse to work or complain about the lack of safety?

It’s very easy to say this after the fact. In retrospect, injured workers likely wish they had spoken up. Unfortunately, the reason that many of them neglect to do so is simple: They’re worried about retaliation.

Exactly what retaliation looks like differs from case to case. Sometimes it means getting passed over for promotions and seeing your career stall out. Sometimes it means suddenly getting all of the jobs and tasks that no one wants. Other times, it can even mean getting fired directly.

That’s what happened to a number of workers who had to handle hazardous materials, for example. These included bodily fluids, asbestos and mold. The workers felt unsafe, they complained about the conditions and the hazards, and they were promptly fired.

The above is just one example, but it helps to illustrate why workers are afraid and why they stay silent. They have bills to pay and families to support. Can they afford to take the risk?

The good news is that this type of retaliation is illegal. The workers from the above example sued after they lost their jobs. You have a right to a safe workplace, and, if you get fired after complaining, you must know what legal options you have.