Filing an OSHA whistleblower claim

The Occupational Safety and Health Act makes it unlawful for employers to take retaliatory action against employees who report unhealthy or unsafe conditions in the workplace.

Workers wishing to report retaliation in violation of this or other whistle blow laws that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces must meet several different conditions when filing such a complaint.

What you need to prove when filing an OSHA whistleblower complaint

An employee who seeks to file a whistleblower complaint must be able to prove that:

  • The employer retaliated against the employee
  • The employer was aware that the employee was engaging in a protected activity when they reported their employer’s violation of the law
  • The employer’s adverse action stemmed from the employee carrying out their protected activity

While the federal requirements are applicable here in California, Labor Code Section 6310 is the state-specific law that further clarifies workers’ rights if they file complaints with Cal/OSHA. It spells out what types of discrimination may constitute retaliation, including:

  • Demotions
  • Removing company-provided housing
  • Transfers
  • Reducing hours or pay
  • Assigning undesirable shifts to workers
  • Denying vacation leave or sick benefits

Section 6311 of that same California labor code specifies that workers can refuse to work if they believe it would violate existing laws and regulations or put them and their colleagues in imminent danger.

Whistleblower deadlines

If you’re planning to file an OSHA whistleblower complaint, then you need to know the deadlines for doing so. For example, it ranges between 30 and 180 days from the date the initial retaliatory action occurred. You don’t want to miss out on filing your complaint and recovering the compensation you deserve. However, you’ll want to take time to determine whether you have a valid claim.

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