The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has the responsibility of regulating safety on worksites and has the authority to set rules designed to protect workers. OSHA has too few inspectors and too tight of a budget to be as effective as it should be at doing this job. Because of understaffing, OSHA cannot inspect businesses frequently and companies could get away with safety violations for years.
Things got worse at OSHA recently when the agency had to cut its budget due to the federal sequester. However, amidst the cuts, OSHA increased its resources for investigating whistleblower cases. Whistleblower cases let employees, those most likely to be aware of safety problems, come forward and provide information about violations or wrongdoing on the part of employers.
If a person works at an unsafe jobsite and comes forward to report problems or violations to OSHA, the employer is not permitted to take any kind of retaliatory action. An experienced Rock Hill, South Carolina accident lawyer will help employers to make workers’ compensation claims and to take action against an employer for illegal and improper retaliation.
Workplace Disciple Can Be More Complicated Under OSHA
According to Safety News Alert, retaliation claims against employers are increasing and the number of claims is expected to continue to grow in upcoming years.
While it is good news that this means more employees may step forward when it comes to preventing injury, it is also bad news that employers may choose to respond to these reports with retaliatory action related to hiring, firing or terms and conditions of employment.
Whistleblowing and workers’ comp protections can also raise complicated legal issues and complex questions can arise when a worker gets injured while violating a safety rule. An employer or employer’s insurer will likely conduct an investigation into the violation of the safety rule after a work injury claim is made. This is true because while workers’ compensation does not require an employer to have been negligent for a worker to get benefits, employees can be disqualified from benefits under certain circumstances if they are clearly deviating from accepted company policies.
If an employer uncovers a violation of a safety rule in an investigation, the employer could potentially deny the employee’s workers’ comp claim but it could also decide to take further disciplinary action against the injured employee. However, this opens the employer up to a lawsuit or a retaliation claim.
For example, if a company had a three-strikes rule for safety violations and a person who had two prior violations then made a third safety lapse, the terms of the workplace policy specify that the worker should be fired. However, the employee in this example could then go to OSHA and claim that he or she was terminated as a result of reporting the workplace injury and claim protection under the anti-retaliatory protections for whistleblowers.
Workers themselves are sometimes not aware of exactly why they were terminated and whether the employer acted in a legitimate way or broke the law and took action based on reporting of a work safety hazards. An experienced attorney should be consulted if a worker suspects any type of retaliation has occurred for speaking out about unsafe conditions.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
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Court Rejects Contractor Liability for Subcontractors on Multi-Employer Work Sites, Feb. 26, 2014, Greensboro Work Injury Lawyer Blog