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Protections for Whistleblowers

Workers are protected from unsafe working conditions by both state and federal laws. If there are hazards at your workplace, you can take action to bring these unsafe conditions to the attention of your employer and to report them to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  Employers are prohibited by the Occupational Safety and Health Act from engaging in retaliatory behavior if you do make a report of unsafe conditions.

If you feel you have been retaliated against for reporting dangerous conditions at work, or if you have been hurt on-the-job and you want help, a Colorado Springs workers’ compensation attorney can represent you.  You should contact an attorney as soon as possible after an injury or as soon as you discover you are being retaliated against for reporting unsafe working conditions, as you may have to act within a certain time frame in order to protect your rights.

Protections for Whistleblowers Reporting Unsafe Working Conditions

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces protections for whistleblowers created under many different laws, each of which has their own deadlines by which complaints of retaliation must be filed.

For example, if you make a report under the Occupational Safety and Health Act for retaliation, you have 30 days to file your complaint after the alleged retaliation. If you are being retaliated against for making a report under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, however, you have 90 days. You can find a complete list of the whistleblower protections OSHA enforces, and the deadlines, on the OSHA website.

A complaint of retaliation can be filed by calling or visiting your local OSHA office or by making a written complaint to the closest regional office near you.  Written complaints can be emailed, mailed, faxed, or hand-delivered.   When OSHA receives a complaint, OSHA will conduct an investigation to determine if unlawful retaliation took place. In order for OSHA to determine that whistleblower laws were violated, OSHA must determine that:

  • Your actions were protected by anti-whistleblower laws. In other words, you must have made a specific type of complaint, such as reporting a violation of workplace safety laws, that entitles you to whistleblower protection.
  • The employer was aware of the protected actions you took, or suspected that you took those actions.
  • The employer took some type of adverse action against you, motivated by your protected actions.

If OSHA determines that retaliation did occur because of your protected whistleblowing activities, OSHA will try to facilitate a settlement. If no settlement agreement is reached, OSHA will typically issue an order requiring that you be reinstated, that you be paid back wages, that benefits are restored, and that other remedies are instituted as necessary to make you whole. An employer can contest this order. 

You also have the option of filing a lawsuit, in many cases, when you are the victim of retaliation at work. You should talk with a Colorado Springs workers’ compensation attorney to find out about your options and to determine the best course of action if your employer retaliated against you for taking action due to unsafe working conditions.

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