The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces over 20 whistleblower laws. This enforcement protects employees from retaliation for reporting workplace violations and engaging in other protected activities.
With OSHA’s whistleblower protection program, whistleblowers are typically guaranteed legal protection from their employers who may want to retaliate for their actions.
What is Workplace Retaliation?
Workplace retaliation is when an employer takes adverse action against an employee for engaging in protected activity. The employer does this as a punishment, and the steps may vary.
“Malpractices happen in different organizations and companies. When a whistleblower is protected, they can expose these wrongs without fear of retaliation.” says attorney Tony Munter.
Examples of adverse actions by an employer include:
- Firing or laying off
- Denying overtime or promotion
- Denying benefits
- Failing to hire or rehire
- Intimidation or harassment
- Making threats
- Actions affecting promotion
- Reducing or changing pay or hours
- Subtle actions like isolating, ostracizing, or mocking
- Falsely accusing the employee of poor performance
- Constructive discharge
How to File a Whistleblower Complaint
If your employer has retaliated against you, understand that you can take legal action. OSHA’s whistleblower protection laws provide you the right to file a whistleblower complaint.
Whistleblower complaints can be filed in several ways, and some options are:
You can file a whistleblower complaint form to submit your complaint to OSHA. The form can be found on the OSHA website. If you are an employee in a state with OSHA-approved State Plans, your complaints will be forwarded for a response.
You can fax, mail, or email a complaint letter to your local OSHA Regional or Area Office. You may also send a printed copy of your completed Online Whistleblower Complaint Form instead. Your correspondence should include your name, email address, and telephone/fax number.
You can also call your local OSHA Regional or Area Office. By calling, you can discuss with OSHA staff and get answers to questions you may have.
Visiting your local OSHA Regional or Area Office is another way you can file a complaint. The staff will receive your complaint and attend to you adequately.
What You Should Have Before Filing a Complaint
When filing your complaint, important things to have include:
- Documentation about any additional complaints that are statutorily protected
- Copies of any legally acquired documents related to your complaint. For example, emails, call logs, text messages, activity logs, meeting minutes, task orders, letters, and memos
- Copies of any letters of employment or termination
- A copy of the employer’s employee handbook or the collective bargaining agreement
- Copies of any disciplinary actions you have faced while working as an employee
- A current description of your position
- A list of the names and contact information of any potential witnesses who can support your claims
- The names, positions, and contact information of the management representatives who made the personnel decision you are criticizing
- The individuals’ names, positions held, and contact information of who handled the paperwork for the personnel decision
- Copies of your most recent five pay stubs
- Copies of any records from any previous disputes between you and the business
- Copies of all records from worker’s compensation or unemployment processes about the incident(s) in your complaint
OSHA’s whistleblower policies are important in protecting the jobs of whistleblowers. With these protections, employees can speak up about pertinent issues and hold their employees accountable without fear of retaliation.