Reporting Your Boss to OSHA: Why Your Employer Can't Punish You
Updated: Jun 19
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If you have a safety violation complaint as an employee, you normally file it with OSHA. OSHA is in charge of a wide range of workplace safety issues, as well as implementing federal legislation in this area. They also collaborate with states under OSHA-approved state programs and may be involved in state-level safety infractions.
If you are unable to work because of the risk of serious injury or death due to unsafe working conditions, you may contact OSHA for an inspection; but, if there isn't enough time for an inspection, you must stop working immediately.
If you are disciplined or fired for doing so, you can bring a discrimination case and/or an OSHA complaint.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal organization responsible for enacting workplace safety and health legislation in a variety of industries across the United States. OSHA can also penalize employers who break the rules, audit companies for compliance, and investigate individual grievances filed by employees or their Employment Attorney.
Remember that persons who violate OSHA regulations may face legal consequences in addition to any fines or penalties. This is especially true when such infractions cause workers to be hurt or become unwell at work.
If OSHA believes it necessary, fines may be waived in some instances. A "ticket" can be issued to employers with a small number of employees and few (if any) past violations. An OSHA alert, on the other hand, is a serious concern. Repeat offenders would very definitely face stiff penalties.
Workers' Rights are Safeguarded by OSHA
The federal OSH Act, which established OSHA in 1970, focuses on protecting employees from dangerous and hazardous working circumstances that could cause them harm. OSHA includes basic regulations and rights for employees in terms of how the system works, in addition to the right to a relatively safe workplace.
Consider the case below:
You have the right to receive "layman's language" education and information on OSHA standards and related workplace dangers to avoid.
You have the right as a worker to seek and study reports linked to workplace injuries and illnesses.
You have the right to make a formal complaint with OSHA in total secrecy (to avoid retaliation from your employer) and to have your employer audited by OSHA on a specific issue.
After you've requested an investigation, you'll have the right, but not the obligation, to accompany OSHA inspectors and point out potential infractions.
One of the struggles is obtaining copies of all test reports for tests conducted during the required inspection in order to establish occupational dangers. Until your manager knows you were the one who alerted him or her, you have the right to keep your job, income, and benefits.
Any retaliation you receive as a result of revealing the issue is a separate violation that could result in a lawsuit.
How to File an OSHA Complaint in California
Fill out a Discrimination Complaint Form. If you believe you have been discriminated against or retaliated against for submitting an OSHA complaint, you have 30 days to submit a discrimination complaint. For example, you can file an OSHA complaint within that time window, but a daily discrimination case can be filed afterward.
Employer-supplied Workers' rights to workplace safety and health include access to OSHA training programs. Your company is required by law to create and implement a comprehensive anti-hazard instructional program that must be documented. It can be conveyed orally or graphically, but it must include a written component.
Employers must ensure that all chemical containers are labeled, with dangerous compounds clearly labeled to provide employees with enough notice. Information on the potential effects of various chemicals on those who work with them on a daily basis, as well as how to properly protect oneself, should be included in the training.
All hazardous chemicals must be identified, and a specified line of contact must be established to show how personnel can be alerted about such hazards, which may occur in pipes or during non-routine jobs.
There are additionally severe safety criteria that must be met on construction sites, in hospital settings, and in enclosed places such as work trenches. Training requirements are specific to your profession and circumstances, and any major or repeated infractions will result in an OSHA complaint and/or a fine.
Information Requirements. Your manager has no legal authority to keep you in the dark regarding OSHA rules, workplace hazards, OSHA test results, or wounded employees. You have the right to ask for this information, and your employer is obligated to provide it. For example, you could request to examine the results of chemical or radiation tests, as well as a report on who was hurt and how after a workplace incident.
Your supervisor is required to advise you that he has medical/exposure information on you when you first start working for him and then every year after that. Your employer must also tell you where these records are kept and how to get them. If you or a delegate requests such documents, the employer has 15 business days to respond.
If chemical exposure exceeds OSHA guidelines, or if noise levels are allowed to be unsafe without proper controls and warnings to potentially exposed employees, or if any infractions are detected in the records, it can be used as evidence in a complaint. Also, keep in mind that if an employer goes out of business, the records must be transferred to a "successor business," or you must be notified and given at least three months' notice before the business permanently closes.
Demands for Action. You have the right as an employee to make a formal request to your employer for the rectification of a health or safety hazard. You may also seek corrective action if OSHA does not clearly address the safety problem. It may, for example, violate another state or federal law or constitute careless behavior even if it isn't clearly specified as a violation somewhere.
Staff members understandably may not want to "stick their necks out" and risk being dismissed or retaliated against, but remember that you are protected under the law from all forms of retaliation. Furthermore, if the situation is difficult, your health and the health of your coworkers may be compromised. Often, all that is required to resolve an issue is bravely seeking disciplinary action from your manager.
Complain to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in writing (OSHA). If obtaining papers and communicating with your employer about an issue to request a correction does not provide results in a fair amount of time, it may be time to seek legal help. You can also contact OSHA directly to register a formal complaint and/or request that the appropriate employer and/or work station be inspected.
Online, by phone, fax, or in writing, OSHA complaints are accepted. We'll help you find and understand the forms you'll need, as well as provide you instructions on how to fill them out. If you don't want your employer to know who submitted the complaint, you can ask OSHA to keep your name confidential.
It's usually a good idea to consult with an expert Los Angeles Labor Law Attorney to make sure your situation is one that OSHA would examine, as well as to learn what you should and shouldn't mention on the complaint forms. A Los Angeles Employment Lawyer can help you make your case more effective while also protecting your legal rights in the future.
Participate in the Inspection. You can just file a complaint and wait for OSHA inspectors to arrive and do their work. However, accompanying the inspector(s) with you or an approved delegate (such as a union rep) is frequently advantageous so that you may point out the problem(s) in detail during the inspection. Your employer has no jurisdiction to choose the authorized representative and is strictly forbidden from doing so since it could lead to a cover-up attempt.
If there isn't a union or a union representative available, OSHA may hold discreet one-on-one discussions with numerous workers who are aware of the problems. Staff can also report infractions, answer inquiries, and previous detailed events, accidents, or illnesses to the OSHA officer. Workers are supposed to notify the inspector if they believe the conditions visible during the inspection are not as they should be. Thus, it's just been cleaned up and made compliant in order to pass the inspection and avoid culpability for the breach indicated before.
Submit a Claim about Discrimination. If you believe you have been discriminated against or retaliated against for submitting an OSHA complaint, you have 30 days to submit a discrimination complaint. For example, you can file an OSHA complaint within that time window, but a daily discrimination case can be filed afterward.
If you refuse to work because of the risk of injury or death due to unsafe working conditions, you may contact OSHA for an inspection; but, if there isn't enough time for an inspection, you must stop working immediately. If you are disciplined or fired for doing so, you can bring a discrimination case and/or an OSHA complaint.
You Might Get Discriminated for Doing the Right Thing
When you make an OSHA complaint that exposes the wrongdoings of an employer, you automatically become a whistleblower. By law, whistleblowers cannot be discriminated or retaliated against for doing the right thing.
However, you can try to spot the discrimination, and use that to consider whether you (personally) have a Labor Law case against your employer.
Discrimination in the workplace usually falls into one of two categories:
Discrimination occurs when an employer adopts a corporate policy that applies to all employees but has a disproportionately detrimental impact on employees who belong to a protected class compared to those who do not. To put it another way, the idea appears to be "facially neutral" and does not appear to favor any worker.
While such a policy may be unlawful, it affects workers who share a protected feature disproportionately. Even if the employer has no discriminatory purpose, to begin with, in a case of disproportionate effect discrimination, the employer may be held accountable for any prejudice that occurred.
For example, to encourage employees to stay active and safe, a business may create a policy providing employees with ten more minutes during their lunch break if they take the stairs instead of the elevator. Employees with impairments, on the other hand, may be unable to engage, resulting in a disparity in their treatment.
2. Disparate Treatment
The employer's actions must be motivated by a discriminatory intent in cases of differential treatment discrimination. When an employer refuses to recruit, encourage, or offer a pay raise to a certain employee or harasses, demotes, terminates, or takes any other adverse action against that person, it is known as disparate treatment. It is the most widespread kind of discrimination in the workplace.
In cases that fall within these categories, employees bear the burden of establishing that they were the victims of employment discrimination. This includes presenting evidence to support the claim's "components," which requires proving the veracity of a number of facts. The following elements must be present in cases alleging disproportionate treatment or disparate effect discrimination:
Anti-discrimination laws were in existence at the time.
The employer took disciplinary action against the employee.
The employee's or job applicant's safe status prompted the bad behavior.
As a result of the employer's negative work behavior, the employee was damaged.
An employee will not be able to launch a successful action against their company unless they can show one or more of these items.
Employers in California Who Could Face Discrimination Charges
In California, anti-discrimination laws apply to the following sorts of businesses:
Governmental or state-owned entities
Employers with five or more employees
Representatives of the employer
People or businesses with five or more employees
Although California's anti-discrimination laws try to prevent companies from discriminating against employees or job candidates, they do not apply to small enterprises. As a result, employment discrimination laws in California do not apply to employees in businesses that employ fewer than five people on a daily basis. However, these standards are different under federal law because an individual is considered an employer if they employ 15 or more people. The terms involved have the following definitions:
A person, a company, an organization, a corporation, or another legal body that employs people.
When they have five or more Employees. A circumstance in which an employer supervises and leads five or more workers as part of a job assignment, apprenticeship, or contract. The contract can be explicit or implied, and it can be written or oral.
These workers should be "regularly employed", which means that the employer has five or more employees per week for a total of twenty weeks in the previous two calendar years.
Part-time workers are considered to be working, as are those on paid or unpaid leave.
When Your Employer is a Government Agency
Under California's anti-discrimination statute, the state is also considered an employer. As a result, state government employees have the right to sue for discrimination in the workplace. Every subdivision of the state of California, as well as local governments, city councils, county governments, and special districts, are all employers.