Whistleblower Provisions in the Occupational Safety and Health Act – Overview and Summary

  • By: Staff Editor
  • Date: October 07, 2011
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The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) protects workers against retaliation for complaining to their employers, unions, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), or other government agencies about unsafe or unhealthy conditions in the workplace, environmental problems, and certain public safety hazards.

Under the OSH Act, employers cannot retaliate against employees who turn whistleblowers. This means an employer cannot do the following to a whistleblower:
  • Transfer
  • Deny a raise
  • Reduce the whistleblower’s work hours
  • Fire the whistleblower or
  • Punish them in any other way because they have exercised any right afforded to them under one of the laws that protect whistleblowers.
How to file discrimination complaints
Discrimination complaints must be filed as soon as possible, at least within 30 days of the alleged reprisal. OSHA Area Office staff can explain the protections under the whistleblower laws and deadlines for filing complaints.
Workers who believe that they have been subject to retaliation for engaging in health and safety actions that are protected under the OSH Act can file complaints with a federal OSHA Area Office representative. In those states operating OSHA-approved State Plan (except those plans covering only public sector employees), private sector employees can file complaints for retaliation with either a federal OSHA Area Office representative or with a State Plan representative. States with OSHA-approved State Plans also protect state and local government employees against retaliation, but in those states, public sector workers can file complaints for retaliation only with State Plan representatives.
Attend any of the following ComplianceOnline webinars to improve your understanding of OSHA regulations:
Penalties for whistleblower retaliation
The recent settlement that OSHA reached with the Houston-based Goodman Manufacturing Co. LP demonstrated the risks employers take in retaliating against employees who turn whistleblowers, in violation of the OSH Act. For violating the whistleblower protection regulations in the OSH Act, Goodman Manufacturing agreed to $150,000 to the whistleblower who’d been illegally terminated.
The whistleblower had complained to OSHA’s North Houston Area office that Goodman Manufacturing was not properly recording employee injuries and illnesses on its OSHA 300 logs.
When OSHA investigated the complaint, it found that Goodman Manufacturing had chosen not to address its non-compliance with regulations but decided to transfer the employee in question to a much less desirable job. The complainant was terminated by Goodman Manufacturing for refusing to be transferred.
Besides the $150,000 fine, the company also has to purge all references to the complainant's termination in its personnel files, modify the files to reflect a voluntary resignation and provide a neutral job reference upon request.
Additional resources
Read the whistleblower protection provisions in the OSH Act in full



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