Recent DOL Plan Identifies Work Safety Whistleblower Protections

Workers who report their own injuries or the potential for injury as a result of job site safety concerns should not have to fear they will lose their job for it. Sadly, it happens far too often. worksign

It’s called employer retaliation, and it is illegal.

But that doesn’t mean employers don’t try to skirt the rules or inadvertently cross the line. That was part of the reason why last year, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) distributed a guide to employers on best practices for protecting whistleblowers and addressing retaliation. 

Now, the U.S. Department of Labor’s FY 2014-2018 Strategic Plan specifically pointed to this guide as one of its key performance goals.

This issue has come to the forefront as a number of workers have come forward alleging retaliation for reporting workplace safety concerns the last several years.

OSHA began a Whistleblower Protection Program last year that outlined worker rights, protections and offered a channel from which to initiate complaints. The firm noted that retaliation could take the form of:

  • Layoff or firing
  • Blacklisting
  • Demotion
  • Denial of promotion or overtime
  • Disciplinary action
  • Benefit denial
  • Failure to hire or rehire
  • Harassment and intimidation
  • Threats
  • Reassignment adversely impacting promotional prospects
  • Reduction of hours or pay

There are a host of worker protections for coming forward with important safety information, as spelled out here by industry. Those include motor vehicle safety, consumer products and commercial motor carriers. As part of the program, OSHA has bolstered its staff numbers, tightened its coordination with other agencies and doubled down on staff training. There was also an advisory committee formed to offer recommendations on ongoing improvements to the program.

All of this is excellent news. However, it’s not necessarily going to help the individual worker who has suffered an injury and is afraid to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits for fear his boss will fire him. This is one of those situations where it’s beneficial to discuss the circumstances first with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Rock Hill.

We can help you understand better from a legal perspective whether you have a strong case, what your rights are and what is the best way to approach your boss for benefits. It’s not a bad idea to have an attorney involved in the process from the start because so many workers make missteps in the initial stages of their filing.

Your employer and your workers’ compensation insurance company have almost certainly been down this path many times. They know exactly how to target any weaknesses in your claim, and they will exploit those in their favor.

When a worker has an attorney at the outset often helps to reduce the chances of retaliation because employers know their actions are being monitored and properly documented. And it doesn’t have to be an adversarial process; simply knowing you have legal counsel is often enough.

Companies should want to eliminate retaliation for workplace injuries, and they can do that with proactive measures and appropriate consequences when it does happen. In that regard, it’s great that OSHA is taking the initiative.

But you still need a lawyer.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

OSHA Deeply Focused on Protecting Whistleblowers and Remedying Employer Retaliation, Feb. 11, 2016, By Heather Bailey and Jon Hoag, Vending Market Watch

More Blog Entries:

Pickett v. Advance Auto Parts – PTSD and Workers’ Compensation Following Store Robbery, Feb. 11, 2016, Rock Hill Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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