OSHA Retaliation

Both Minnesota and federal law require that employers comply with the Occupational and Safety Health Act.  The Occupational and Safety Health Act (“OSH Act”) was enacted in 1970 to protect workers by requiring certain safety standards to which employers and workplaces must adhere.  These standards are written and regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”).

OSHA regulations cover a wide variety of workplace standards.  There are OSHA standards for construction work, agriculture, maritime operations, and general industry (which are the standards that apply to most worksites).  OSHA regulations set forth specific standards, such as requirements regarding personal protective equipment, fall protection, electrical standards, and hazardous substances, among many others.  Specific information about OSHA’s standards and regulations can be found at OSHA’s website.

In addition to setting standards in the workplace, both federal and Minnesota state law have “anti-retaliation provisions” which prohibit employers from terminating, discriminating against, or taking other adverse actions toward an employee because the employee exercised his or her rights under the OSH Act.  Rights afforded by the OSH Act include:

  • Employee participation in safety and health activities
  • Complaining to OSHA or seeking an OSHA inspection
  • Participating in an OSHA inspection
  • Participating or testifying in any proceeding related to an OSHA inspection
  • Reporting a work-related injury, illness, or fatality
  • Reviewing records of work-related injuries and illnesses
  • Receiving information and training about hazards, methods to prevent harms, and the OSHA standards that apply to the employee’s workplace

Adverse actions under the law could include any of the following retaliatory conduct:

  • Wrongful termination
  • Demotion or transfer
  • Denial of overtime or promotion
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Denial of benefits
  • Failure to hire or rehire
  • Intimidation or harassment
  • Reassignment affecting promotion prospects
  • Reducing pay or hours

Federal OSHA Retaliation claims do not allow an employee to bring a private lawsuit against his or her employer for violating the anti-retaliation provision of federal OSHA.  Instead, an employee who believes that his or her employer violated the anti-retaliation provision of the Federal OSH Act must file a complaint with OSHA within thirty days after such a violation occurs.  Minnesota law has similar anti-retaliation provision under the Minnesota state Occupational Safety and Health Act (“MNOSHA”).  The Minnesota state anti-retaliation provision, however, provides that an employee can either file a complaint with OSHA or bring a private lawsuit.  In addition to legal claims under the OSH Act and MNOSHA, an employee may also have legal claims against his or her employer under the Minnesota Whistleblower Act, which prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for reporting violations of law or regulations in the workplace.  More information about the Minnesota Whistleblower Act can be found here.

If you believe your employer is violating OSHA standards, failing to provide a safe workplace, or has retaliated against you for exercising your rights under the OSH Act, contact the employment attorneys at Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta.  We will work with you directly to determine the best way to protect your rights, ensure a safe workplace, and pursue your case.