The Whistleblower Protection Program from OSHA
The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has responsibility for enforcement of twenty-one whistleblower statutes which protect employees who report violations of various workplace safety, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws.
Any employee who has been retaliated against by their employer for any protected activity under the whistleblower statutes can file a compliant with OSHA. The law requires that complaints be filed within a certain number of days after the alleged retaliation. The amount of time allowed for filing complaints depends on which law covers a particular violation. Time allowances vary from 30 days to a maximum of 180 days in some cases.
Retaliation by employers for protected activity under the whistleblower statutes can include actions such as firing or laying off a worker, blacklisting, demoting, denying overtime or promotion, disciplining the employee, denying benefits, failing to hire or rehire, intimidation, reassignment affecting promotion prospects, or reducing pay or hours.
OSHA will investigate complaints it receives. The criteria that must be revealed in the investigation include:
• The employee engaged in protected activity
• The employer knew about the protected activity
• The employer took an adverse action against the employee
• The protected activity was the motivating factor, or under some laws, a contributing factor, in the decision to take the adverse action against the employee.
If the investigation finds evidence that supports the employee’s allegation, OSHA will attempt to negotiate a settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached, OSHA issues an order requiring the employer to reinstate the employee, pay back wages, restore benefits, or other remedies for the retaliation against the employee. In some cases, lawsuits are filed on behalf of an employee to obtain compliance for violations by employers.
The webpage for the OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program at www.whistleblowers.gov provides facts and statistics, detailed information on filing complaints, news releases related to the Whistleblower Program, and a listing of the statutes which protect whistleblowers. Detailed information on the laws covering each of different industries covered is provided.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) provides standards to help maintain a safe and healthy environment for workers and protects workers who find it necessary to file complaints for violations. For further information visit www.osha.gov .
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