The Occupational Safety and Health Act provides protections for whistleblowers who engage in specific protected activities. These protections exist to discourage employers from retaliating against employees who engage in protected actions.
Which actions do whistleblower laws protect against?
Whistleblower laws enforced by OSHA protect multiple activities:
- Reporting conduct that violates federal law
- Filing a complaint about a violation
- Participating in or helping with a proceeding related to a violation
These protections extend to both internal and external reporting of violations and apply even if the employee is mistaken in believing unlawful conduct has occurred. The various statutes enforced by OSHA may provide additional protections in some circumstances.
Actions whistleblower laws protect employees from
Whistleblowers can not file complaints anonymously. As a result, they may face a significant risk of retaliation by employers for filing complaints. Whistleblower laws protect whistleblowers who engage in protected activities from adverse actions that may include firing, denying promotions or overtime, demotions, reductions in hours or pay, discipline, denial of benefits, failure to hire or rehire, intimidation and harassment, blacklisting and threats.
For whistleblower laws to prohibit these actions, the employee must be able to prove that the employer knew that the employee engaged in a protected activity and the employer took an adverse action based on that knowledge.
OSHA Whistleblower investigators are neutral fact-finders. They do not represent employees or advocate for them. For this reason, employees who engage in whistleblowing activities may want to consult with a legal professional to ensure that they understand their rights.