As an employee, you have the right and responsibility to refuse taking part in unsafe or dangerous work – but you also have the responsibility to report those practices.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s (OSHA) Whistleblower Protection Program was made to ensure workers are not punished for brining unsafe working conditions or practices to light.
ProTraining by Yardstick Training’s industry leading OSHA courses can teach you more about your rights and responsibilities on the job and help protect you and your loved ones in the future.
What is the Whistleblower Protection Plan?
The Whistleblower Protection Program was made to protect workers and enforces more than 20 whistleblower provisions, according to OSHA.
These provisions protect employees from retaliation for reporting violations of workplace health and safety, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws or engaging in other related protected activities.
If an employee reports unsafe work practices or conditions, it is unlawful for his employer to commit any form of adverse action against that employee. Adverse actions include, but are not limited to:
- Laying off
- Denying overtime or promotions
- Reducing pay or hours
- Denying benefits
- Failing to hire or rehire
- Intimidation or harassment
- Making threats
- Reassignment to a less desirable position
If an employee believes they are the target of some form of retaliation following the reporting on an unsafe work situation, they may be eligible to be protected through the Whistleblower Protection Program.
You have the right to file a whistleblower complaint with OSHA if you believe your employer retaliated against you for exercising your rights as an employee under the whistleblower protection laws enforced by OSHA.
How to Report Unsafe Workplace Practices
Employees have a number of tools available to them to assist in the reporting process – as an employee it is your responsibility to report unsafe work conditions, and OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program is designed to protect you in the case of negative retaliation following a report.
The following are all available options to file a whistleblower complaint:
- Using the Online Whistleblower Complaint Form. Any complaint received online from employees located in states with OSHA-approved State Plans will be sent to the appropriate form.
- Using fax, mail, or email to describe your complaint, or by submitting a printed copy of your online complaint form to your closest OSHA Regional or Area Office.
- Calling your local OSHA Regional or Area Office. OSHA will discuss your complaint with you and address any concerns or questions.
- You may also submit a verbal or written complaint to any OSHA local or regional office.
The time limit for filing a complaint is dependent on the statute under which the complaint is categorized. The time frame for filing any complaint begins when the action takes place.
A comprehensive list of the varying time frames for complaints to be accepted is available here.
During the Investigation
During the investigation the employee who has filed a complaint will be referred to as “the Complainant,” and the employer which the complaint has been filed against is known as “the Respondent.”
As the Complainant, you must provide OSHA with current contact information – failing to do this may result in OSHA concluding the investigation.
Both the Complainant and the Respondent should keep all potential evidence pertaining to the allegations including emails, notes, text messages and voicemails, work products, and personnel files.
During the investigation, OSHA will ask for a written defense to be provided by the Respondent. Both parties are expected to respond to any requests made by OSHA during the investigation.
The investigation length will vary in competition time depending on a number of contributing factors. The involved parties may settle the complaint at any point during the investigation either using OSHA’s Alternative Dispute Resolution program, through the assigned OSHA investigator, or through a negotiated settlement approved through OSHA.
Following the investigation, the investigator involved will provide a recommendation regarding whether provided evidence shows cause to believe the Respondent violated a specific statute.
Employers and employees are encouraged to create and participate in a workplace anti-retaliation program – designed to create a workplace wherein workers feel safe to voice concerns without the fear of retaliation.
ProTraining by Yardstick Training is dedicated to providing industry-leading training through OSHA courses designed to help employers and employees work in the safest environments possible.