definition of whistleblower

What protection does OSHA offer whistleblowers?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, is probably best known as the division of the U.S. Department of Labor that checks up on job sites. It informs workers of their rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act and helps ensure those rights are enforced. From a workers’ comp perspective, OSHA helps keep employees safe by helping keep workplaces safe.

Less well known, however, is OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program, which protects employees in many areas from unfair employer retaliation.

What is retaliation?

Workers have the right to a safe workplace under federal law. This means workers have the right to be well trained, for example, or use safe machinery and have necessary safety gear provided. When a workplace isn’t safe, an employee has the right to raise concerns with his or her manager without worrying about retaliation.

Ideally, when a worker witnesses an unsafe situation, he or she can discuss the matter with management and see the problem quickly addressed. Unfortunately, sometimes employers fail to value the safer conditions that often come from having a workplace where everyone can speak up without fear. In these cases, workers may experience retaliation for bringing potential safety issues to light.

Retaliation can take on a number of forms, including:

  •       Firing
  •       Denial of overtime or promotions
  •       Reducing pay or hours
  •       Disciplining
  •       Intimidating or harassing
  •       Reassigning to a less desirable area
  •       Blacklisting

Workers who have been fired or otherwise retaliated against for exercising their rights can file a whistleblower complaint within 30 days of retaliation (under most statutes). OSHA then investigates the claim.

For employees who have safety concerns but already suspect that bringing them to the attention of their employer would lead to retaliation, OSHA also allows for confidential reporting. Employees simply report an unsafe situation and request that OSHA inspect the worksite.

The value of anti-retaliation programs

In a good workplace, employers and employees work together to minimize injuries and accidents. Smart employers understand that this means listening to everyone’s safety concerns—from the lowest-level employee on up. After all, management might not have the direct, day-to-day experience needed to spot a problem early on. But creating this type of open environment often takes creating and maintaining a strong anti-retaliation program. According to OSHA, this includes having the following elements in place:

  •       Management commitment
  •       Compliance concern response system
  •       Anti-retaliation response system
  •       Anti-retaliation training
  •       Program oversight

It’s worth noting that OSHA also looks out for discrimination of employees who have reported an injury or illness, specifically tactics meant to discourage employees from reporting at all.

Georgia Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you’ve been injured on the job, you need an Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney. The Law Offices of Laura Lanzisera can explain Georgia’s workers’ compensation system and the benefits available for your disability. We can help value your claim and negotiate with the insurance company. Contact our office today for a free consultation.

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