By: Shanari Baird
If there is a safety concern or OSHA violation taking place in the workplace, it can be intimidating and difficult for workers to express their worries. Understandably, many fear speaking up will jeopardize their jobs, employment records, and livelihood.
Unfortunately, concerns over adverse reactions from employers are not unfounded. There have been several recent cases where employers have retaliated against workers for voicing safety and health concerns, including:
- The United States Postal Service (USPS) retaliated against one of its safety specialists for assisting a co-worker on a health and safety concern and for filing his own whistleblower complaint alleging retaliation and harassment.
- A receptionist at a salon was fired by her employer after making her co-workers aware of health hazards associated with products containing formaldehyde that were regularly used by stylists and haircutters.
- A worker who raised concerns that a truck driver employed by Core-Mark International of Phoenix had exceeded the maximum number of driving hours was terminated by his employer.
- The Idaho Falls School District dismissed a worker who questions whether the timeline of a construction project would allow enough time to follow regulations for asbestos removal and that accidental release of dangerous asbestos fibers might occur.
Fortunately, under OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program, all of the cases just described are being recognized as unlawful and the violators are being sued for damages.
OSHA’s whistleblower statutes protects you and other workers from retaliation as well. The law states that an employer cannot retaliate against workers who report injuries, safety concerns, or other protected activity.
Since the passage of the OSH Act in 1970, Congress has expanded OSHA’s whistleblower authority to protect workers from retaliation under twenty-two federal laws. These protect workers in industries including airlines, consumer products, maritime, securities laws, and more.
Complaints of retaliation must be reported to OSHA within set timeframes. For employees who are retaliated against for filing a safety and health concern, the employee must file a complaint within 30 days.