OSHA Revises Online Whistleblower Complaint Form to Help Protect Employees Reporting Violations of Workplace Safety and Other Laws

Workers throughout Massachusetts seeking to report an unsafe work environment are protected from retaliation by their employer. Retaliation can take different forms and includes any “adverse action” taken against workers, such as employees filing a Massachusetts workers’ compensation claim.  This action may include firing, demoting, denying benefits, threatening, or reducing pay or hours. According to Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employees who make a complaint about their workplace or otherwise exercise their rights under the Act are protected from retaliation.

There are different ways that an employee can report a complaint to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), including online, in-person, and in writing. Recently, OSHA revised the whistleblower complaint form in an effort to further protect employees from retaliation.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires that employers provide safe and healthy workplaces for employees.  OSHA has been set in place to ensure that these conditions are met and to enforce standards and train, educate, and assist both workers and employers.  Statutes that are enforced by OSHA cover whistleblower provisions.  These laws mandate that employees comply with the deadline, filing their complaint within a certain number of days after the alleged retaliation.

An example of whistleblower protections intended to prohibit retaliation against employees is the statute concerning the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).  This statute provides that manufacturers, retailers, distributors, and private labelers may not discriminate against employees who have provided information concerning a violation of the Act or testified as to a violation.  The CPSIA regulates and enforces tools that help to market safe products for consumers, including children.  Regulations range from standards for infant and toddler products to lead limits in paints.  According to the whistleblower protections set forth by law, employers may not retaliate by changing the employee’s compensation, conditions, terms, or privileges of employment after the employee has moved forward with reporting a violation or refused to participate in activities the employee believes violate the Act.

When employees complete a whistleblower complaint through the online form, they are required to allege:  (1) the employee was engaged in activity that falls under the whistleblower protection law; (2) the employer knew or suspected the employee had engaged in that activity; (3) the employer acted adversely against the employee; and (4) the employee’s activity contributed to or motivated the employer’s adverse action.

Additionally, OSHA will accept whistleblower complaints if they are made by phone or in-person at an OSHA office.  If an employee chooses to file a complaint, OSHA will contact them to determine whether an investigation will take place.  It is important to note that whistleblower complaints cannot be filed anonymously.  When OSHA moves forward with an investigation, the employer will be notified of the employee’s complaint.  The employer has the opportunity to respond.

All employers must provide a safe workplace that meets federal and Massachusetts standards. The workers’ compensation lawyers at Pulgini & Norton represent employees as they assert their right to workers’ compensation following an accident.  We also help employees understand their legal right to a safe, injury-free workplace. To discuss the details of your legal situation, contact our office for a free consultation with a skilled attorney. We can be reached by calling (781) 843-2200 or contacting us online.

More Blog Posts:

OSHA makes efforts to protect female construction workers, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, September 3, 2013

Gutter Firm Cited by OSHA for Repeat Violations After Massachusetts Worker Falls and Suffers Severe Injuries, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, February 16, 2017

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