From the U.S. Department of Labor
August 31, 2012 (Washington D.C.) – What are your rights if you observe safety hazards or certain other wrongdoing at your workplace?
This Labor Day, learn how you can help protect coworkers or the public from dangerous conditions and key illegal activities—and be protected under federal and state whistleblower laws.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) and a number of other laws protect workers against retaliation for complaining to their employers, unions, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), or other government agencies about unsafe or unhealthful conditions in the workplace, environmental problems, certain public safety hazards, and certain violations of federal provisions concerning securities fraud, as well as for engaging in other related protected activities. Whistleblowers may not be transferred, denied a raise, have their hours reduced, be fired or punished in any other way because they have exercised any right afforded to them under one of the laws that protect whistleblowers.
Pursuant to most of these laws, discrimination complaints must be filed as soon as possible - within 30 days of the alleged reprisal. OSHA Area Office staff can explain the protections under the whistleblower laws and deadlines for filing complaints.
Workers who believe that they have been subject to retaliation for engaging in health and safety actions that are protected under the OSH Act may file complaints with a federal OSHA Area Office representative. In those states operating OSHA-approved State Plan (except those plans covering only public sector employees), private sector employees may file complaints for retaliation with either a federal OSHA Area Office representative or with a State Plan representative.
States with OSHA-approved State Plans also protect state and local government employees against retaliation, but in those states, public sector workers can file complaints for retaliation only with State Plan representatives.
Employment Law Guide - Whistleblower Protection - Provides information on whistleblower protection provisions enforced by OSHA.
OSHA Whistleblower Program Web Site - Provides information on rights for employees and representatives of employees under the whistleblower program.
How to File a Complaint with OSHA - Provides information on the worker complaint process.
- Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) - Provides protection against retaliation based on employee's exercising a variety of rights guaranteed under the OSH Act, such as filing a safety and health complaint with OSHA, participating in an inspection, etc.
- 29 CFR Part 1977 – Discrimination Against Employees Exercising Rights under the Williams-Steiger OSH Act – Regulations implementing this federal statute designed to regulate employment conditions relating to occupational safety and health.
- Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 (STAA) - Provides specific safety and health discrimination protections for truck drivers and other employees relating to the safety of commercial motor vehicles. Coverage includes private-sector workers whose work affects the safety of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (or a gross vehicle weight) of 10,001 pounds or more; vehicles designed to transport more than 10 passengers, including the driver; and vehicles transporting materials determined by the U.S. Department of Transportation to be hazardous and to require placarding.
- 29 CFR Part 1978 – Rules for Implementing Section 405 of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 - Provides regulatory information on employee protection from discrimination when the employee has engaged in a protected activity pertaining to commercial motor vehicle safety and health matters.
- Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986 (AHERA) - Provides employee protection against retaliation for reporting violations of environmental laws relating to asbestos in elementary and secondary school systems, whether public or non-profit private.
- International Safety Container Act of 1977 (ISCA) - Provides specific protection for employees against retaliation for reporting the existence of unsafe shipping containers.
- Energy Reorganization Act of 1978 (ERA) - Provides occupational safety and health discrimination protections for employees of operators, applicants, contractors, and subcontractors of nuclear power plants licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and for employees of contractors working under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy (so-called GOCO sites).
- Clean Air Act of 1977 (CAA) - Provides discrimination protection and provides for the development and enforcement of standards regarding air quality and air pollution. Employees are protected from retaliation for reporting violations, or alleged violations, of the standards.
- Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 (SDWA) - Requires that all drinking water systems in public buildings and new construction of all types be lead free. Employees are protected from retaliation for reporting violations, or alleged violations, of the law.
- Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 (FWPCA) - Also called the "Clean Water Act," basically prohibits any and all hazardous pollution of waters that provide a natural habitat for living things. Persons reporting such pollution, or alleged polution, are protected from discrimination.
- Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA),15 USC § 2622 - Regulates the manufacture, distribution, and use of certain toxic substances. Employees are protected from retaliation for reporting violations, or alleged violations, of the Act.
- Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1976 (SWDA) - Also called the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), provides technical and financial assistance for the development of facilities for the recovery of energy and other resources from discarded materials and to regulate the management of hazardous waste. Employees are protected from discrimination for exercising certain rights under the Acts.
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) - Provides for liability, compensation, cleanup, and emergency response for hazardous substances released into the environment and for the cleanup of inactive hazardous waste disposal sites. Employees are protected from discrimination for exercising certain rights under the Acts.
- Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21) - Provides anti-discrimination coverage to employees of air carriers, contractors, or subcontractors of air carriers who raise safety concerns.
- 29 CFR 1979 – Procedures for the Handling of Discrimination Complaints under Section 519 of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century – Provides information on employee protection from discrimination by air carriers or contractors or subcontractors of air carriers because the employee has engaged in protected activity pertaining to a violation or alleged violation of any order, regulation, or standard of the Federal Aviation Administration or any other provision of federal law relating to air carrier safety.
- Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act of 2002 (CCFA) (Sarbanes-Oxley Act) - Provides anti-discrimination protection to employees of publicly traded corporations who report violations of the Securities Exchange Act or any other federal law relating to fraud against shareholders.
- 29 CFR Part 1980 – Procedures for the Handling of Discrimination Complaints under Section 806 of the Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act of 2002 – Provides information on employee protection from discrimination by companies and representatives of companies because the employee has engaged in protected activity pertaining to a violation or alleged violation of any rule or regulation of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or any provision of federal law relating to fraud against shareholders.
- Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (PSIA), 49 USC § 60129 - Provides discrimination protection for employees who report violations, or alleged violations, of federal law regarding pipeline safety and security or who refuse to violate such provisions.
- 29 CFR 1981 – Procedures for the Handling of Discrimination Complaints under Section 6 of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 – Provides procedures and time frames for the handling of discrimination complaints under the Pipeline Safety Act, including procedures and time frames for employee complaints to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), investigations by OSHA, appeals of OSHA determinations to an administrative law judge (ALJ) for a hearing de novo, hearings by ALJs, review of ALJ decisions by the Administrative Review Board (acting on behalf of the Secretary), and judicial review of the Secretary’s final decision.
- 29 CFR Part 24 – Procedures for the Handling of Discrimination Complaints under Federal Employee Protection Statutes - Implements employee protection provisions under the Safe Drinking Water Act, Water Pollution Control Act, Toxic Substances Control Act, Solid Waste Disposal Act, Clean Air Act, Energy Reorganization Act, and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.
- The U.S. Office of Special Counsel enforces whistleblower protections law for federal employees. Also, pursuant to 29 CFR 1960.46 and 29 CFR 1960.47, federal agencies are required to establish procedures to protect federal employees against retaliation for participation in protected health and safety activities.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210
Tel.: 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742)
- For questions on other DOL laws,
please call DOL's Toll-Free Help Line at 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365). Live assistance is available in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Additional service is available in more than 140 languages through a translation service.
Tel: 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365)
*Pursuant to the U.S. Department of Labor's Confidentiality Protocol for Compliance Assistance Inquiries, information provided by a telephone caller will be kept confidential within the bounds of the law. Compliance assistance inquiries will not trigger an inspection, audit, investigation, etc.