There is a safety hazard in your workplace, but something is stopping you from reporting it. You heard that the last employee who complained about the safety conditions was moved to 3rd shift and not allowed overtime work. You don’t want to keep working in hazardous conditions, but you certainly don’t want to work 3rd shift, and you like the extra income overtime gives the opportunity for. You aren’t sure what to do next. Or, perhaps you realize the company you work for is dumping chemicals into a local reservoir. You realize this violates environmental laws, but you are nervous your company may retaliate against you if you make a complaint to the authorities. Well, you don’t have to fear your employer, or be concerned with your job security. OSHA has your back!
How are you protected?
The Whistle Blower Protection Program, initiated by the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration, was instated to protect employees from company retaliation. Not only do employees have the right to complain or report about unsafe conditions, but they have the right to do so without fear of punishment or negative actions taken against them by their employer. According to OSHA, the program protects employees from “adverse action” that companies might take against them in response to filing a complaint. These actions include: firing or laying off, back-listing, demoting, denying overtime or promotion, and intimidation/harassment as well as a number of others listed on the OSHA website.
The program protects workers through 22 separate federal laws. These laws cover all potential bases on which employees could make a complaint, or suffer from safety hazards and violations. Employees who make a complaint based on their personal rights as workers, or in reference to any of the 22 statutes are protected by OSHA and the Whistle Blower Protection Program.
How do you file a complaint?
There may come a time when you need to file a complaint. OSHA has streamlined this process as much as possible. First, decide what kind of complaint you are filing. If it is a discrimination complaint (a complaint that in response to a violation of your rights as a worker) then complaints must be filed within 30 days of the date of the action in question. These complaints can be filed with either the Federal or State branch of OSHA. If your complaint is in response to a violation of any of the 22 statutes listed under the Whistle Blower Protection Program, then the complaint must be made directly with the Federal branch of OSHA. It is important to note that each statute has a different time-frame in which a complaint can be made. So, if you identify a violation it is best to report it as soon as possible. Complaints can be filed in a variety of ways. The OSHA online complaint form is readily accessible to anyone with a computer and internet access. Complaints can also be reported by downloading a complaint form and either mailing it or faxing it to your local OSHA office. Workers can also telephone their local office, or mail a letter detailing the violation in question.
Employees have rights to a safe workplace, as well as rights to report violations without fear of company retaliation. OSHA reinforces these rights through the Whistle Blower Protection Program. If there is a legitimate concern with safety in your workplace, or an apparent violation of any of the 22 statutes, OSHA encourages you to blow the whistle and they will have your back in the process.