No matter where you work or what type of job you have, your employer has a responsibility to ensure your safety. In fact, employers are legally obligated to maintain safe work environments.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) established meticulous safety protocols and employer initiatives to ensure that employees are protected from workplace injuries. Since OSHA can’t feasibly monitor every single employer in the nation to ensure adherence to safety regulations, the administration relies heavily on detailed reports from employees which discuss potential safety concerns and workplace hazards. Regrettably, this need for employee insight leads to animosity within the workplace; after all, no employer wants to be exposed to suspicion or litigation. As a result, many workers fail to report threats to avoid retaliation from their employers.
This fear of reprisal, although common, isn’t wholly justified. In fact, there are laws that specifically protect employees from suffering backlash from reporting safety violations. They're known as “Whistleblower Laws.”
Whistleblower Protection Laws
The Occupational Safety and Health Act provides specific retaliatory protection for employees who report workplace hazards. These employees, referred to as “whistleblowers,” are legally sheltered from employer backlash by state whistleblower laws. Florida Statute §448.102 specifically outlines employer regulations when it comes to whistleblowers. The law states:
An employer may not take retaliatory action against an employee because the employee has disclosed or threatened to disclose to a government agency an activity, policy, or practice that is in violation of a law; or testified before an entity conducting an investigation into possible violations; or refused to participate in an activity, policy or practice that is in violation of a law, rule, or regulation.
In other words, if an employer chooses to violate your whistleblower rights, he will be subject to a civil action lawsuit. Violations may include:
- Creating a hostile work environment. This includes encouraging workplace gossip about you; instructing coworkers to keep their distance from you; or instigating “silent treatments” while you're around.
- Changing your schedule or duties without cause. This includes shortening your hours, constantly scheduling you for unwanted shifts, or making you do excessive "grunt work" in retaliation for your report.
- Terminating your employment. This includes surprise layoffs or convenient terminations following a complaint. It's important to know that these cases are difficult to prove, as layoffs can occur at any time, and not necessarily as retaliation for your actions.
For more information about your employee rights, schedule a complimentary conference with attorneys Frank R. Johnson and J. Lance Gilbert today. You’ll learn more about how to stay safe at work and also see how our knowledge of workplace injuries can help you pursue strong claim options. Call today at (386) 673-4412 or visit our office to learn more.
Do you want to protect your fellow workers from harm while making your workplace a little safer? Use your social media connections to inform your work friends about the Whistleblower Protection Act and the importance of reporting workplace hazards. Simply share or post this page on Facebook, in an email, or on a community bulletin board to help raise awareness and increase job safety.