The retaliation lawyers at Lipsky Lowe LLP understand how difficult it is for employees to submit OSHA claims. OSHA stands for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and is the agency responsible for ensuring that employees enjoy safe and healthful working conditions. When employees become aware of unsafe or unhealthy working conditions, they may submit an OSHA complaint. Unfortunately, many employees who have submitted complaints have suffered from OSHA retaliation, as employees cannot submit OSHA whistleblower complaints anonymously.
Retaliation often includes termination of the employee’s employment or demoting the employee. Employees may face retaliation in terms of opportunities for a promotion or regarding employee benefits. If you are considering filing a complaint with OSHA regarding your employer, speaking with a skilled employment lawyer is essential. At Lipsky Lowe LLP, our experienced OSHA lawyers can advise you as to your rights as a whistleblower. We can guide you through the process and ensure that your rights are protected. Contact our employment law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.
Filing an OSHA Whistleblower Complaint
OSHA offers employees the ability to submit an online whistleblower complaint form to report retaliation for reporting dangerous or unsafe working conditions. OSHA also accepts whistleblower complaints made via the telephone, in writing, or by employees who walk into an OSHA office to report workplace safety violations. Every whistleblower complaint must contain the following four allegations:
- The employee is engaging in an activity that the whistleblower protection laws protect
- The employer either suspected or knew about the employee reporting them
- The employer retaliated by making an adverse action against the employee
- The protected activity of the employee contributed to or motivated the retaliation
After filing the complaint, OSHA will notify the employer of the OSHA complaint. The employer will have an opportunity to respond to the complaint. When submitting the claim, OSHA recommends that employees do not provide the names or contact information of witnesses to the health or safety violations. Instead, include any evidence that supports your complaint. OSHA officials will discover and contact witnesses of the safety violations during the investigation phase.
Under federal and New York State law, employees have a right to work in a safe environment. Employees have the legal right to speak up about safety concerns in the workforce without fear of retaliation. Employees also have the right to take any of the following actions without retaliation:
- Request an OSHA inspection of the employee’s workplace
- Speak directly to an OSHA inspector
- Report a workplace illness or injury
- Secure medical record copies
- See workplace copies of workplace injury and illness reports
- Secure copies of any results from tests conducted to find workplace hazards
- Work in an area free of toxic chemicals
- Work on safe machines
- Receive safety gear, to include gloves and a harness when necessary
Legal Protections Offered to Whistleblowers
OSHA is responsible for administering over 20 federal laws that protect whistleblowers. The OSHA statute explicitly protects employees who complain about unhealthful or unsafe conditions from retaliation from their employers. The purpose of OSHA whistleblower protections is to encourage employees to report unsafe working conditions without fear of retaliation from their employers.
Employees who feel like their employers cannot legally fire them or punish them are more likely to report unsafe or hazardous work conditions. As a result, OSHA can require employers to address and fix unsafe working conditions. Employers cannot retaliate against whistleblowers. Retaliation occurs when an employer takes any adverse action against an employee who reports safety concerns, injuries, or other legally protected concerns.
What Constitutes Retaliation Toward OSHA Whistleblowers?
Retaliation includes any adverse action an employer takes against an employee that would negatively impact the employee. The following adverse reactions would constitute retaliation in an OSHA whistleblower case:
- Intimidation or harassment of an employee
- Employers making threats against an employee
- Denial of a promotion that the employee deserved
- Reducing the employee’s pay or hours
- Denial of overtime hours
- Changing the employee’s shift to less favorable work hours
- Laying off or firing an employee
- Speaking negatively about an employee
- Humiliating an employee in the workplace
- Demoting an employee
- Reassigning an employee to a different location or department
- Refusing to grant the employee benefits
- Failing to hire the potential employee
- Giving the employee a negative employee review
- Giving the employee a negative job recommendation
Employer Penalties for OSHA Retaliation
After an employee submits an OSHA complaint, OSHA will investigate the claim. Illegal retaliation occurs when the investigation reveals that the employer knew about the employee’s OSHA complaint and retaliated against the employee for making the complaint. When the employer and employee cannot reach a settlement agreement for the retaliation, OSHA may issue an order. The order generally requires the employer to take one or more of the following actions:
- Reinstate the employee to employment
- Re-promote the employee if the employer demoted the employee
- Pay any back wages the employer owes the employee
- Restore any employee benefits that the employer denied the employer in retaliation
- Provide other remedies that attempt to make the employee whole
In some cases, OSHA will require the employer to take action needed for the reinstatement order immediately. When the whistleblower claimed the following Acts, the Secretary of Labor may also submit a federal lawsuit to seek relief on behalf of the employee:
- The International Safe Container Act
- The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act
- Occupational Safety and Health Act
Contact Our New York City OSHA Retaliation Attorney
If your employer has retaliated against you for filing an OSHA complaint, you may be entitled to legal remedies. If your employer has punished you or discriminated against you because you acted as a whistleblower, time is of the essence. Whistleblowers must submit an OSHA whistleblower complaint within 30 days of the alleged retaliation or discrimination in most cases.
At Lipsky Lowe LLP, our lawyers recognize the essential role whistleblowers play in keeping workplaces safe. We fight hard for the rights of OSHA whistleblowers who’ve suffered unfair retaliation for reporting unsafe working conditions. Contact our New York City employment law firm today to schedule your initial consultation and learn how our lawyers can fight for you.