KNOW YOUR RIGHTS WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT'S WRONG: WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTIONS

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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.

COMPLIANCE ASSISTANCE MATERIALS

BASIC INFORMATION

·        

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.

APPLICABLE LAWS AND REGULATIONS

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

RELATED TOPICS AND LINKS

- 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.

DOL CONTACTS*

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
    200 Constitution Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC 20210
    Contact OSHA
    Tel.: 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742)
    TTY: 1-877-889-5627
    Local Offices

  • 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)
    TTY

*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.

 


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