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Can my employer fire me for an OSHA complaint?

Employees in California are protected from unsafe work environments by both state and federal laws. If an employer takes action against an employee who reports unsafe conditions, the employee has the right to fight back.

According to FindLaw, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets up policies to protect workers from illnesses, hazards and injuries that can occur in the workplace. If an employee notices a safety hazard, the first step should be to inform the employer so he or she can take appropriate action to fix it. If the employer does not take steps to remedy the issue, or if the hazard presents imminent danger, the worker has the right to decline work until conditions are safe. 

The Chronicle states if the employer does not do anything to fix the problem, the employee can file a complaint with OSHA. One of the rights as a whistleblower is the employer cannot fire, demote, discipline or deny a promotion due to the OSHA complaint. He or she can also not dock wages, shorten work hours or take away benefits. If this happens, or if the employee is the recipient of threats or harassment, another complaint can be filed with OSHA. 

The problem is that many states have laws that allow an employer to fire anyone for any reason. This means that although they cannot legally fire an employee for an OSHA complaint, they can find another reason to do so. When this happens, it is a good idea to hire an employment attorney to fight employer retaliation. An attorney can help the employee get reinstated to his or her position and/or receive compensation for back pay.


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