New OSHA Rules Protect Employees From Retaliation

New rules issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) protect employees who express concerns about workplace safety, health and security.

The regulations establish procedures for processing worker complaints about retaliation by employers; they also enable workers to file retaliation complaints by phone and in languages other than English.

The regulations cover workers in the trucking, railroad, consumer products and public transit industries.

Making Good on a Promise

In a Department of Labor statement, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Dr. David Michaels, stated "Changes in the whistleblower provisions make good on the promise to stand by those workers who have the courage to come forward when they believe their employer is violating the law and cutting corners on a variety of safety, health and security concerns in the affected industries."

Michaels said workers who believe their employers are violating laws and regulations have the right by law to file complaints without fear of retaliation. Some of the forms of employer retaliation the Department of Labor protects employees from include the following:

  • Being fired or laid off
  • Blacklisting
  • Denial of overtime or promotions
  • Demotion
  • Discipline
  • Failure to hire or rehire
  • Intimidation
  • Reassignment that negatively affects prospects for career advancement
  • Reductions in pay or hours
  • Threats

Under U.S. labor law, employees have the right to complain to OSHA, ask for an OSHA inspection of their workplace, participate in an OSHA inspection and participate or testify in proceedings related to an OSHA workplace inspection.

Protecting Whistleblowers

OSHA enforces whistleblower provisions of the law, including 18 statutes protecting workers reporting violations by employers in the following areas:

  • Airlines
  • Commercial motor carriers
  • Environmental law
  • Health care reform
  • Nuclear power
  • Pipelines
  • Public transportation
  • Railroads
  • Securities

After an employee files a complaint regarding health, security or safety issues - whether the complaint is about a Colorado employer or an employer anywhere else in the nation - OSHA conducts an in-depth interview to determine if a full investigation is called for.