OSHA’s whistleblower program is constructed to protect employees from retaliation if they report any safety hazards or concerns to OSHA. As an employer it’s extremely important to remember that you do not have the right to retaliate against an employee that has reported you. As OSHA defense lawyers, we’ve provided a brief overview for all employers to read to help understand the components of OSHA’s whistleblower program. To view the second half of the article, please visit Part 2.
Protection From Employer Retaliation
Some of the more common forms of employer retaliation that are restricted from being used are:
- Firing/laying off an employee for reporting the company to OSHA
- Demoting an employee
- Denying overtime to an employee
- Blacklisting an employee
- Denying a promotion to an employee
- Disciplining an employee unfairly
- Refusing to provide an employee their benefits
- Intimidating an employee
- Making threats against an employee
- Reassigning an employee
- Reducing an employee’s pay/hours
About The Whistleblower Program
The OSHA Act, Section 11(c) forbids any employers from discriminating against their employees for utilizing their rights covered by the OSHA Act. These rights that the employees can use include: filing a complaint to OSHA, speaking with an inspector during employee interviews, requesting your company’s injury records, reporting any injuries or accidents, and voicing a safety complaint against you. As an employer, if you retaliate against an employee for any of the aforementioned actions, that employee has 30 days to file a complaint with OSHA. Once OSHA receives a retaliation complaint, they will begin by assessing it to decide if it is a valid complaint or not. The complaint will be found valid if it proves that:
- The employee filed a protected complaint under the OSHA Act
- The employer was aware about the complaint
- The employer took unfavorable action against the employee
- The protected complaint motivated the unfavorable action
If OSHA decides that the evidence listed supports the employee’s claim, and a settlement is not able to be reached, OSHA will typically issue an order, which the employer may contest, mandating that the employer must reinstate the employee, pay back any wages that were taken away, or give back benefits.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.