You are an employee working for ABC Widgets LLC (fictional) and have reported to your supervisor repeatedly that equipment you are working with is missing guards and you have not been properly trained. You have reported this concern several times with no response. You have even gone one step further to document the hazard and report it to a manger or the safety department. There has been no response from the employer. What if your supervisor tells you to keep quiet or you’ll lose your job? What do you do?
Workers may be overtaken by the fear of losing their jobs if they were to report violations found in their workplace (i.e. failure to provide employees’ safety training) to OSHA. More at risk are employees who are under trained, uneducated, or undocumented. With family and dependents relying on these workers for support, some workers elect to work in a hazardous situation rather than go without a job.
The problem is most of these workers don’t have the slightest clue regarding their rights to a safe and healthful workplace. Although OSHA posters may be posted in an employees’ break room, workers may not know how to read the poster to find out what rights they have. Or the poster may not be in a language they understand. Or worse, the employee may be challenged with illiteracy or a learning disability. Employees should know they have a right to a safe and healthful workplace and gainful employment. OSHA is reaching out to the workplace to advise employees and employers of their rights under the OSH Act.
Last July, OSHA helped reinstate a Virginia-based pilot after he got sacked for reporting an emergency landing. The pilot was fired by his employer, Metropolitan Aviation LLC, back in 2010. Aside from his reinstatement, he also received back wages amounting to $140,000 for the period between June 30, 2010 and June 30, 2013. The whistleblower reprisal investigation has helped the pilot.
“Pilots are protected by law when they refuse to fly an aircraft determined to be un-airworthy,” said OSHA regional administrator for Philadelphia, MaryAnn Garrahan, in the news release. “Air carriers that retaliate against employees for exercising their rights under AIR21 will be held accountable.”
For the uninformed, OSHA has established a whistleblower protection program which enforces the strict observation of over 21 whistleblower statutes across a variety of industries like nuclear, pipeline, environmental, airline, motor carrier, maritime, and securities. These whistleblower statutes protect the rights of workers including, but not limited to safety and health activities, reporting job-related injuries, illnesses or death, or reporting violations. These statutes also protect workers from the following forms of employer retaliation:
– Firing; Failure to hire or rehire
– Corrective actions
– Intimidation/ Threats
– Denial of benefits, overtime, and promotion
– Reassignment that may affect
– Reduction of wages and work hours
Know your rights employer and employees. If you are an employer and are willfully committing violations take steps to ensure your employees’ safety. Being in compliance is easier than you think and costs much less than a citation or even worse – a fatality. Visit http://www.whistleblowers.gov to know more about your rights. You may also check out these links for helpful information:
Statutes Enforced by OSHA
Whistleblower Statutes – Filing Time Limits
Things to Know When Filing a Complaint
Fact Sheets and Statistics
Protection from Employer’s Retaliation