Whistleblower Protections

Whistleblower Protections

What are my rights as a whistleblower?

You may file a complaint with OSHA if your
employer discriminates against you because you are
involved in legally protected safety and health activities
or report any of the following:
¦

Environmental concerns.
¦

Potential securities fraud.
¦

Violations of Department of Transportation rules and
regulations pertaining to commercial motor carriers.
¦ Violations of Federal Aviation Administration rules
and regulations.
¦

Violations of Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules
and regulations.

You may file a complaint with OSHA if your
employer discriminates against you because you are
involved in protected safety or health concerns; you
report protected environmental concerns or safety
concerns involving the trucking, nuclear power, airline
or pipeline industries; or you report potential
securities fraud. Specific whistleblower provisions in
different laws vary.

What laws with whistleblower
protections does OSHA enforce?

OSHA administers the whistleblower provisions of
the following laws. Note that complaints must be
reported to OSHA within set time periods following
the alleged discrimination as prescribed by each law
listed below.
¦

Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act
(90 days)
¦

Clean Air Act (30 days)
¦

Comprehensive Environmental Response,
Compensation and Liability Act (30 days)
¦

Energy Reorganization Act (180 days)
¦ Federal Water Pollution Control Act (30 days)
¦ International Safety Container Act (60 days)
¦ Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (180 days )
¦ Occupational Safety & Health Act ( OSH Act)
(30 days)
¦ Safe Drinking Water Act (30 days)
¦ Sarbanes-Oxley Act (90 days)
¦ Solid Waste Disposal Act (30 days)
¦ Surface Transportation Assistance Act ( STAA)
(180 days)
¦ Toxic Substances Control Act (30 days)
¦ Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform
Act (90 days)

What discriminatory actions do the
whistleblower provisions prohibit?

Employer retaliation against employees who
exercise their legal rights is prohibited. Such
discrimination may include the following actions:
¦ Assigning to
undesirable shifts
¦ Blacklisting
¦ Damaging financial
credit
¦ Demoting
¦ Denying overtime or
promotion
¦ Disallowing benefits
¦ Disciplining
¦ Evicting from company
housing
¦ Failing to hire or
rehire
¦ Firing or laying off
¦ Intimidating
¦ Transferring
¦ Reassigning work
¦ Reducing pay or hours

How do I file a complaint?

If you believe your employer discriminated against
you because you exercised your legal rights as an
employee, contact your local OSHA office as soon as
possible because you must file your complaint within
the legal time limits. You can telephone, or fax, or mail
your complaint to the OSHA office listed on the OSHA
website at http://www.osha.gov. OSHA conducts an in-depth
interview with each complainant to determine the need
for an investigation. If evidence supports the worker’s
claim of discrimination, OSHA will ask the employer to
restore the worker’s job, earnings, and benefits.
If only safety or health issues under the OSH Act
are involved, you also can file a complaint with your
state if your state operates an OSHA-approved state
plan, and the state will investigate your allegation. In
addition, state and local government workers in these
states (and states with public-employee-only state
plans) may file complaints with the state. For details,
see http://www.osha.gov/fso/osp/index.html.

Does the OSH Act protect me if I refuse to
work?

You should be careful when exercising your limited
right to refuse to do a job because conditions are
hazardous. You only have legal protection under the
OSH Act when all of the following apply:
¦

You must believe you face death or serious injury.
And the situation must be so clearly hazardous that
a reasonable person would agree with your view
that the hazard might cause death or serious injury.
¦ The situation must be so urgent that you don’t have
time to eliminate the danger through regulatory
channels.
¦ You must have tried, without success, to get your
employer to correct the dangerous condition.
2003
Even though your union contract or state law may
give the right to refuse work, OSHA cannot enforce
your contract or state law. Other laws with whistleblower
protection also may protect your refusal to
work for safety, health, or other reasons. Regardless
of the unsafe condition, the employee should never
walk off the job.

For details see http://www.osha.gov/
as/opa/worker/refuse.html.

Do I have any protection if I work in the
transportation industry?

Drivers of buses and freight trucks involved in
the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles are
protected against discriminatory actions by their
employers if the following apply:
¦

The commercial motor vehicle has a gross vehicle

weight rating of more than 10,001 pounds.
¦

The vehicle is designed to carry ten or more
passengers, including the driver.
¦

The employee refuses to violate, or reports
violations of, Department of Transportation motor
carrier safety regulations.

Workers involved in international shipping who
report unsafe shipping containers are also protected.
Employees of air carriers, their contractors or
subcontractors, who raise safety concerns or violations
of FAA rules and regulations may also have
discrimination protection. In addition, employers,
owners, and operators of pipelines, their contractors
and subcontractors, who report violations of pipeline
safety rules and regulations may also be protected
against discriminatory actions.

Do I have any protection if I voice
environmental concerns?

Yes, a number of laws protect workers who report
violations of environmental laws related to drinking
water and water pollution, toxic substances, solid
waste disposal, air quality and air pollution, asbestos
in schools, and hazardous waste disposal sites. The
Energy Reorganization Act protects workers in the
nuclear power industry who raise safety concerns.

Do I have any protection if I report that
my employer has engaged in corporate
fraud?

Employees who work for publicly traded companies
are protected from discriminatory acts by their
employers, or any officer, employee, contractor,
subcontractor or agent of the company because they
provided information, caused information to be
provided, or assisted in an investigation by a federal
regulatory or law enforcement agency, a Member or
committee of Congress or an employee’s supervisor, or
filed, caused to be filed, participated in or assisted in
a proceeding, relating to an alleged violation of mail
fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, or securities fraud;
violating Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
rules or regulations or federal laws relating to fraud
against shareholders.

How can I get more information on safety
and health?

For more information on whistleblower statutes,
please visit the Department of Labor website at
http://0-www.oalj.dol.gov.library.csuhayward.edu/
libwhist.htm. Or go to http://www.osha.gov, click on W in
the site index, then click on Whistleblowers. In
addition, OSHA has various publications, standards,
technical assistance, and compliance tools to help you,
and offers extensive assistance through workplace
consultation, voluntary protection programs, grants,
strategic partnerships, state plans, training, and
education. OSHA’s Safety and Health Program
Management Guidelines ( Federal Register 54:3904-
3916, January 26, 1989) detail elements critical to
the development of a successful safety and health
management system. This and other information are
available on OSHA’s website.
¦ For one free copy of OSHA publications, send a selfaddressed
mailing label to OSHA Publications
Office, 200 Constitution Avenue N.W., N-3101,
Washington, DC 20210; or send a request to our
fax at (202) 693-2498, or call us toll-free at (800)
321-OSHA.
¦ To order OSHA publications online, go to
http://www.osha.gov, find Newsroom in the side bar on
the right, click on Publications, and follow the
instructions for ordering.
¦ To file a complaint by phone, report an emergency,
or get OSHA advice, assistance, or products, visit
us at http://www.osha.gov, or contact your nearest OSHA
office, or call toll-free at (800) 321-OSHA (6742).
The teletypewriter (TTY) number is (877) 889-5627.
¦ To file a complaint online or obtain more information
on OSHA federal and state programs, visit OSHA’s
website.
This is one in a series of informational fact sheets highlighting OSHA programs, policies, or standards. It does not impose
any new compliance requirements. For a comprehensive list of compliance requirements of OSHA standards or regulations,
refer to Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations. This information will be made available to sensory-impaired individuals
upon request. The voice phone is (202) 693-1999. See also OSHA’s website at http://www.osha.gov.

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