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Whistlebower rule clarified and finalized

It is imperative that workers advocate for their own safety and the safety of others on the job. After all, no one knows a job site better than those who pour their efforts into it day after day. In order to prevent workplace injuries, most employers will act on reported safety hazards so that their employees will remain protected. However, that is not always the case.

Sometimes, workers must call upon federal authorities to address safety hazards that employers refuse to correct. These brave individuals are often referred to as whistleblowers. Whistleblowers are protected from employer retaliation under the law.

What constitutes retaliation? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently clarified and finalized its rule related to whistleblowers and retaliation. Specifically, it now holds that employers violate the law when they "intimidate, threaten, restrain, coerce, blacklist, discharge, disciple, harass, suspend, demote, or in any other manner retaliate against any employee" for reporting an alleged security or safety violation to federal regulators.

OSHA's latest clarification applies specifically to complaints filed by commercial drivers under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. However, such whistleblower provisions protect all manner of employees under various federal statutes.

It is important to note that those seeking whistleblower protections must have first "sought from the employer - and been unable to obtain - correction of the hazardous safety or security condition." After correction is sought and a complaint has been filed with federal authorities, employees are further protected during any investigation that may result.

When workers advocate for their own safety and the safety of others, devastating work injuries and fatalities can be avoided. The law protects these workers from retaliation, provided that they take a few necessary steps.

Source: LandLine, "OSHA publishes employee 'whistleblower' final rule," Clarissa Kell-Holland, Aug. 1, 2012

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