Overview: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces the whistleblower provisions in 22 statutes. The OSH Act specifically prohibits retaliation against whistleblowers who report workplace safety and health violations.
If an employee reports a health and safety violation to the employer or to OSHA, the employer may not punish the employee for this. This holds true even if it turns out that there was no violation. Retaliatory behavior by the employer refers to anything that could be considered a punishment to the employee, such as termination, demotion, denying payment or reducing hours, among others.
If an employer has valid reasons to discipline an employee who is also a whistleblower, it needs to be very careful to document the reasons and double check that the discipline is fair and equal. This helps ensure that the employer can prove that the disciplinary action had nothing to do with the whistleblowing.
Trends: The new electronic reporting rules that require employers to electronically report injury and illness data to OSHA beginning in 2017 contain anti-retaliation provisions, effective in 2016, that allow OSHA to issue citations for retaliation even if no employee has filed a complaint.
Author: Melissa Gonzalez Boyce, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to reflect examples of retaliatory discipline included in OSHA guidance interpreting the anti-retaliation provisions of the electronic reporting final rule.
Updated to include OSHA's final rule establishing procedures for handling Affordable Care Act retaliation complaints.
Updated to include the updated EEOC strategic plan and OSHA's final rule establishing procedures for handling Affordable Care Act retaliation complaints.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule that establishes procedures and time frames for handling whistleblower retaliation complaints under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Updated to include retaliation protections in the state right to request law, effective September 1, 2016.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has issued a cease and desist order targeting provisions in severance agreements that limit an employee's ability to cash in on a whistleblower award.
Updated policy and guidance to reflect the Defend Trade Secrets Act, effective May 11, 2016. See Defend Trade Secrets Act.
Updated to reflect the whistleblower immunity provision under the Defend Trade Secrets Act, effective May 11, 2016.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) was passed in 1970 to assure safe and healthy workplaces for employees. The Act established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an agency within the US Department of Labor. OSHA enforces the OSH Act by requiring employers to conform to regulations that specify safe and healthy conditions. An employee has the right to notify OSHA of a violation of an OSHA regulation, that is, to be a whistleblower. OSHA enforces the OSH Act's Whistleblower Statute along with 20 other whistleblower statutes for various industries, including the one for the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), which regulates the securities industry. This Legal Insight discusses these whistleblower statutes and employee rights pursuant to them.
Updated to reflect whistleblower immunity protections under the Defend Trade Secrets Act, effective May 11, 2016.
HR guidance on OSHA whistleblowers.