Employees have a right to report companies violating federal safety and health regulations by bringing issues to the attention of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Examples of reported workplace offenses may include broken machinery or employees without protective gear forced to work with hazardous substances.
As noted by EHS Today, workers may also report violations of federal securities and tax laws to OSHA without fearing retaliation. Employees may, for example, inform officials of an employer engaging in unlawful trading activities or failing to report income to the IRS as required.
What an employer may expect after a safety complaint
According to OSHA’s website, when an employee files a complaint detailing a workplace safety issue, it may result in an official performing an onsite inspection. An OSHA representative may investigate a company’s worksite, safety practices and on-the-job injury records.
If an investigation uncovers imminent danger, OSHA may mandate that a company shut down its operations and correct the hazardous conditions before employees return to work. Purported violations may also result in citations or fines. An employer, however, has the right to appeal the outcome.
Employee rights in cases of alleged retaliation
Federal law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees, such as through termination, when they file reports with OSHA. As noted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s whistleblower.gov website, an employee has 30 days to file a whistleblowers’ complaint alleging retaliation.
An individual facing disciplinary action shortly after an OSHA investigation may believe that retaliation motivated his or her employer’s negative response. Employees have the right to file a suit against an employer when they believe a wrongful firing or adverse action occurred. A successful lawsuit may result in the U.S. DOL ordering an employer to pay damages, which may include an employee’s lost wages.