OSHA enforces whistleblower protection laws

Frank S. Clowney III

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) governs nearly two-dozen whistleblower protection laws in California and elsewhere. Protections include rules for workplace safety in manufacturing, energy distribution or generation, construction and many other worksites.

The agency also oversees laws that regulate illegal activities and hazards related to motor vehicle carriers, airlines, railroads, maritime industries and nuclear facilities. The laws prevent employers from taking action against workers who report injuries, workplace hazards and potential violations of law.

Employers urged to implement anti-retaliation programs

OSHA advises companies to put a system in place to receive and respond to worker complaints and prevent and address retaliation against those who voice concerns. The plan should include:

  • Managers who encourage workers to report concerns and protect their confidentiality
  • A clear system for resolving whistleblower concerns
  • A transparent system for receiving and responding to retaliation complaints
  • Anti-retaliation protections for both employees and managers
  • Regular monitoring and oversight, including audits that identify strengths and weaknesses

Retaliation takes many forms

Workers may report violations directly to their employers, but many feel more comfortable taking complaints straight to OSHA. Employers cannot take actions against a worker for doing so, such as:

  • Intimidation
  • Layoffs
  • Demotions or reduced hours
  • Transferring to a less desirable position
  • Denial of overtime, promotion or benefits
  • Isolation
  • Poor performance reviews

Know your rights over workplace retaliation

Whistleblower protections apply not only to regular employees but contractors, leased workers, temporary employees and anyone else controlled by the host employer. If you have been retaliated against by your company, an experienced employment law attorney here in California will protect your rights, help you file a complaint with OSHA and seek the compensation you may deserve.