Whistleblower: Know Your Rights
All workers are entitled to a safe workplace under federal law. If there are environmental issues or unsafe conditions at work, employees have the right to speak up, file a complaint or request for an investigation without worrying about retaliation. To protect the welfare of whistleblowers, the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act forbids employers from discriminating workers who are exercising their rights. But what if an employer does retaliate against a whistleblower?
Workplace Retaliation and the Laws That Protect Whistleblowers
Challenging unsafe work practices or raising environmental hazards should never cost your job. If you believe that exercising your rights became a motivating or contributing factor for an employer to take an adverse or unfavorable action, notify OSHA immediately! Why? Because the complaint must be filed within the time limit specified by state or federal regulations. More importantly, be vigilant about identifying possible workplace retaliation or discrimination. These can include:
- Being disciplined, blacklisted or demoted
- Being suspended, fired or laid off
- Being denied overtime, promotion or benefits
- Being threatened or intimidated
- Being given reduced pay or hours
- Being reassigned to an undesirable position that may affect promotion
OSHA-Enforced Whistleblower Laws OSHA is authorized to enforce 22 whistleblower laws that protect workers against retaliation. However, whistleblowers must file the retaliation complaint within a limited period of time. For instance, retaliation complaints under the OSH Act must be filed within 30 days. Other whistleblower statutes include:
- Affordable Care Act, Section 1558 – 180 days
- Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act – 90 Days
- Clean Air Act – 30 days
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act – 30 days
- Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 – 180 days
- Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act – 180 days
- Energy Reorganization Act – 180 days
- Federal Railroad Safety Act – 180 days
- Federal Water Pollution Control Act – 30 days
- International Safe Container Act - 60 days
- Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act – 180 days
- National Transit Systems Security Act – 180 days
- Pipeline Safety Improvement Act – 180 days
- Safe Drinking Water Act – 30 days
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act – 180 days
- Seaman’s Protection Act – 180 days
- Section 402 of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act – 180 days
- Section 1558 of the Affordable Care Act – 180 days
- Solid Waste Disposal Act – 30 days
- Surface Transportation Assistance Act – 180 days
- Toxic Substances Control Act – 30 days
- Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century – 90 days
Filing a Discrimination Complaint There are four ways to file a discrimination complaint if your employer retaliated against you for exercising your rights under the OSH Act:
- Online – Fill out all the necessary details on the web-based whistleblower complaint form.
- Fax or email – Download and submit the completed whistleblower complaint form to the corresponding regional or area office.
- Phone – Contact the regional or area office that has jurisdiction over your workplace.
- Mail – Send a letter of complaint to the to the nearest regional or area office.
Protect and defend your right to raise unsafe work practices by familiarizing yourself with whistleblower protection programs! For more information about HR Compliance, EHS Compliance, and regulatory training promo codes, visit 360training.com.