According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Whistleblower Protection program, employees have the right to complain against workplace safety violations. This includes several aspects such as:
- Financial reform
- Food safety
- Heath care reforms
The industries they cover include railroad, maritime, commercial motor carriers, public transport, pipeline, nuclear, health care etc. The rights employees can act upon include work related injuries, illnesses, fatalities and worker participation in health activities.
OSHA prohibits employers from discriminating against workers who exercise these rights. This includes filing complaints, participating in inspections, discussing issues with an inspector, exposing employers and injury records and raising a health complaint. If employers take action against workers for exercising their rights, workers can file a complaint against it within 30 days of the act.
OSHA’s Whistleblower program
has been extended to protect workers from discrimination under several federal laws. All complaints need to be reported to the organization within the timeframe given as prescribed by each law.
Rights and responsibilities under Whistle blowing laws
Employers have the responsibility of training their workers in their jobs and ensuring that they have a safe environment to work in. This also includes letting them know that they have the right to report unsafe conditions without fear of retaliation.
As an employer, give your works an overview of the rights and responsibilities they have under federal law and explain how OSHA safeguards their interests. This includes the right to:
- Expressing concerns about unsafe conditions to employers
- Requesting hazard correction onsite
- Filing complaints with OSHA about workplace hazards that have not been rectified despite complaints.
- Participation in inspections by OSHA and interactions with inspectors about work conditions
- Testifying against employers in any proceeding related to the OSHA acts.
- Remaining aware about hazardous chemicals in the workplace and exposures that can prove dangerous.
- Remaining aware of common injuries and illnesses in the workplace
As mentioned before, you cannot act against employees who complain to OSHA behind your back or participating in inspections either. Workers are protected under Section 11(c) of the OSHA act and violations can result in hefty fines as well as jail time.
According to OSHA, adverse action refers to any action that can dissuade a worker from complaining against employers regarding unprotected activities in the workplace. It can include:
- Blacklisting or preventing future hiring
- Laying off or firing
- Intimidation tactics
- Denying overtime or benefits
- Reducing pay or hours
- Reassigning to prevent promotions
- Failing to renew contracts
- Filing a Complaint
If you think that your employer is treating you unfairly because you complained to OSHA, you can exercise your legal rights against them. In that case you need to contact OSHA as soon as possible and within the prescribed amount of time to ensure compliance.
You can do that either by calling OSHA office or visiting the local one to present your complaint in person. Written complaints can be filed either electronically or can be delivered by hand to the office during business hours or through 3rd party commercial carriers. The date you do this on will be considered the date filed. You do not need any particular form and the complaint can be submitted in any language.
The Whistle blower protection program also protects corporate employees who work for publicly traded companies or businesses that need to report to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Those employees are also protected against retaliation for reporting unsafe and illegal work practices.
This can be anything from reporting fraudulent mails, frauds in bank securities, shareholder violations, SEC regulation violations, wire fraud, federal law fraud etc.
Workplace Safety and Compliance Library
As an employer it is your responsibility to ensure that your workers are aware of their rights in the workplace pertaining to their safety concerns. 360Training.com’s Workplace Safety and Compliance library
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