One of the greatest fears for potential whistleblowers is the threat of retaliation by their employer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has numerous statutes in place to protect whistleblowers. In most cases, employers are prevented from terminating or otherwise retaliating against an employee who filed a complaint.
Worker protection statutes
The OSHA worker protection statutes protect employees who report a violation and are facing employer retaliation. Each statute has a filing deadline for reporting the alleged retaliation. The statutes and deadlines are listed below:
- Section 11(c) of OSHA: Established in 1970, this statute protects employees who participate in an OSHA inspection or file a claim. Filing limit is 30 days.
- Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act: Created in 1986, this law provides protection to employees who report asbestos violations or the presence of asbestos in public or private elementary and secondary schools. Filing limit is 90 days.
- Clean Air Act: Passed in 1970, the CAA offers protection to employees who report air emissions violations. Filing limit is 30 days.
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act: Created in 1980, this statute protects employees who report negligence and violations for the cleanup and decontamination of hazardous waste spills, well accidents and other pollutants or contaminants. Filing limit is 30 days.
- Energy Reorganization Act: Established in 1974, the ERA offers protection to employees who report violations of the ERA or Atomic Energy Act. Employees who refuse to participate in violations are also protected. Filing limit is 180 days.
- Federal Water Pollution Control Act: Originally created in 1948, the Clean Water Act provides protection for employees who report water pollution violations. Filing limit is 30 days.
- Safe Drinking Water Act: Passed in 1974, this law offers protection for employees who report actual or potential drinking water pollution. Filing limit is 30 days.
- Solid Waste Disposal Act: Established in 1965, this statute protects employees who report waste disposal violations for solid, medical and hazardous waste. The alleged violations can be at active or future waste disposal facilities. Filing limit is 30 days.
- Toxic Substances Control Act: Created in 1976, this law provides protection to employees who report alleged violations for the handling of industrial chemicals. The chemicals can be produced domestically or imported. Filing limit is 30 days.
If you reported a violation and are facing employer retaliation there are legal options available to you. Start documenting the retaliation efforts and gather any supporting evidence you may already have. Proving retaliation can be an uphill battle, but with the right information in hand you can make a strong case against your employer.