Whistleblowing Provisions and Construction Safety

OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of more than twenty whistleblower statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace safety and health laws. Unsafe working conditions, faulty equipment or lack of training are just a few of the conditions employees can cite in an OSHA complaint.

Protection from discrimination means that an employer cannot retaliate by taking “adverse action” against workers who report safety violations or injuries.

Retaliation can take the form of:

  • Firing or laying off
  • Blacklisting
  • Demoting
  • Denying overtime or promotion
  • Disciplining
  • Denial of benefits
  • Failure to hire or rehire
  • Intimidation
  • Making threats
  • Reassignment affecting prospects for promotion
  • Reducing pay or hours

Best Practices to Avoid Whistleblowing Pitfalls

A thorough and open training program allows for the type of transparency that mitigates future conflicts between employees and employers. As part of this, employees should be aware of how and to whom to address safety concerns. Experts also recommend the following fundamental safety precautions to avoid whistleblowing consequences:

  • Review health and safety programs. Safety programs should explicitly state that no punitive action will result from legitimate safety complaints.
  • Comply with all OSHA recordkeeping requirements.

Workers who feel they have been punished or discriminated against for voicing safety violations have to report to their OSHA Area Office within 30 days. If the evidence supports the employee’s allegation and a settlement cannot be reached, OSHA can issue an order requiring the employer to reinstate the employee, pay back wages and restore benefits.

OSHA has also launched an alternative dispute resolution program (ADR) that can assist complainants and employers in resolving their disputes in a cooperative and voluntary manner. The program has been implemented in two OSHA regions and offers two voluntary methods of ADR: early resolution and mediation. When a whistleblower complaint is filed, the parties will be notified of their ADR options and may work through an OSHA regional ADR coordinator to use these methods. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels noted that “Alternative dispute resolution can provide immediate relief and finality to both parties.”

Additional information on OSHA’s whistleblower program is available online.

 

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