The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 allows employees and their representatives the right to submit a complaint against their employer or request an inspection if they believe workplace hazards put their physical safety at risk. In addition to having the right to submit a complaint, the employee is protected against retaliation, such as termination, lowered pay, a demotion, or intimidation.
If the employee believes they have been wrongfully punished after contacting OSHA for workplace safety violations, the individual has 30 days to file a Whistleblower Complaint against their employer. While some complaints are justified, many others are a result of vengeful employees, unrelated operational changes to the company, or a number of other factors that are in no way intended to target the individual.
To establish a system that safeguards your company from OSHA retaliation complaints and other safety claims, follow these tips from the Tampa OSHA defense lawyers from Cotney Construction Law.
One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is not keeping detailed and accurate records of important information. If you are faced with a Whistleblower complaint, having the proper documentation on file may help protect your company from falsified claims. For example, if due to an outside factor you are restructuring roles within the company, documents outlining when the changes took place, why they are necessary, and which positions will be affected will act as proof that the changes were not an attack on any particular employee, but rather a company-wide change. While it may create extra administrative work, this simple step could save your company thousands if faced with an OSHA employee retaliation investigation.
If you’re not sure where to start, begin with creating folders to hold record of communication with all of your employees. Every communication should be documented and signed by the employee and the supervisor conducting the meeting. If a new procedure is being implemented, document it and have all employees sign as proof that they have been notified of the change. If leadership has identified a potential safety issue and is taking steps to correct the problem, take time to communicate this with your employees, so they know their safety is at the forefront of company operations.
If you don’t have documentation and are faced with an OSHA violation or retaliation claim, consult with an OSHA defense attorney in Tampa to assist in gathering the appropriate information to protect your business.
Create a System for Reporting Work-Site Dangers
One of the best ways to combat an OSHA violation before it happens is creating operating procedures that promote workplace safety and accountability for all employees. Develop safety standards that follow OSHA guidelines and communicate these standards with your employees. It is also beneficial to create a system for employees to report behavior that violates these safety standards. This shows that you are committed to creating a safe working environment and encourage employees to speak up when they see a safety issue that should be addressed. If employees know you are protecting their best interest, they will be more inclined to go through internal reporting channels.
Have a Human Resources Department
Employees may feel compelled to contact OSHA about workplace safety concerns or suspected retaliation because they do not have a place within your company that allows them the freedom to communicate their concerns other than with a direct supervisor. To alleviate this issue, our Tampa OSHA defense attorneys recommend having either an in-house human resources department or an outsourced company who can act as a third-party mediator. With a department or individual dedicated to ensuring the well-being of your employees, you can be confident that potential issues will be addressed internally before they are taken up with an outside party, such as OSHA.
OSHA violations and retaliation complaints can happen no matter how safe you attempt to make your workplace, so it is imperative to create a system that documents internal efforts to create a safe workplace and both individual and company-wide employee communication. Begin protecting your company today by implementing the three steps outlined above.
To schedule a consultation with one of our OSHA defense lawyers, please call us today at 813.579.3278 or submit our contact request form.
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.