Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) Retaliation
The law guarantees employees a safe workplace that is free of known dangers that could harm them. But these protections are meaningless without the ability to challenge employers’ illegal actions. Many employees are understandably hesitant to challenge such practices for fear of retaliation. Indeed, retaliation is the most common illegal motive we see in employment cases. Companies too often look to shoot the messenger rather than solve the real problems they face.
State and federal law prohibit retaliation for challenging an employer’s workplace safety policies and practices, but only if the employee does it in the right way. The law has many traps for the unwary in these types of claims. Employees looking to enforce the law and challenge their employer’s illegal actions should go directly to the department of labor. If an employee is complaining about illegal pay practices internally at their company, they should expressly threaten to file claims with the department of labor. Anything more subtle or civil may leave an employee unprotected from retaliation when their employer lashes out.
If you are considering blowing the whistle at work, it is best to check with an employment attorney ahead of time to ensure that what you want to report will count as “protected activity” before you do it. While good companies and good bosses will take important feedback on management and business issues in stride, more will retaliate against the reporting employee. If your report is not “protected activity,” your employer can legally fire you for complaining and that is exactly what your boss might want to do, especially if your complaint is about her or him.
Do I Have a Case?
If you believe you are the victim of illegal retaliation or if you are considering reporting a problem at work, you should reach out for a consultation today.
Employees Must File Claims Within 30 Days
Federal law gives employees only 30 days to file a complaint for retaliation under OSHA with the Department of Labor. The DOL has authority to require your former employer to reinstate you with full back pay, among other available remedies. Thirty days goes by very quickly so it is imperative that you act fast if you believe you have been retaliated against for raising workplace safety issues.
South Carolina has a similar statute, but also requires employees to file their claims within 30 days with the South Carolina Department of Labor.
North Carolina also prohibits this kind of retaliation and provides employees the longest period of time to act: 180 days. North Carolina’s Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act prohibits employers from taking any retaliatory action against an employee because the employee in good faith does or threatens to file a claim or complaint, initiate any inquiry, investigation, inspection, proceeding or other action, or testify or provide information to any person with respect to any violation of OSHA. The law requires employees to file a claim with the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) within 180 days of the adverse employment action. The law carries significant remedies for employees, including triple damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.
Unfortunately, the North Carolina Department of Labor is far more likely to harm your case than to help your cause. Therefore, we strongly recommend you reach out for a consult before going to the NCDOL if you believe you have been the victim of unlawful retaliation. No matter what, though, you must comply with the 180-day deadline. Therefore, you should file with the NCDOL immediately if it has been five months since the adverse employment action occurred.
Reach out for a consultation today.