State and federal regulations exist to ensure safe and healthy working environments for employees. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”) was enacted in 1970 to protect workers by requiring certain safety standards to which employers and workplaces must adhere. Essentially all employers are to comply with federal standards set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Minnesota has also enacted MN OSHA. Minnesota state law incorporates the federal law by reference and provides additional protection for employees.
Violations of these health and safety laws can cause employers to incur significant fines and even shut down operations. In many industries, employers may elect to reduce costs of providing safe and healthy work environments and at the same time, aim to curb reports or employees whistleblowing about violations. Our employment lawyers are dedicated to protecting workers against retaliation for reporting injuries, violations, unsafe and unhealthy work conditions, or any other violation of state and federal worker protection laws.
What are OSHA regulations?
OSHA regulations cover a wide variety of workplace standards that apply generally to all employers. Specific standards exist for construction work, agriculture, maritime operations, and other industries that involve specific health and safety risks relative to the industry. These may include requirements regarding personal protective equipment, fall protection, electrical standards, and hazardous substances, among many others. OSHA also requires training, record keeping about work-related injuries, inspections and that certain notifications be provided to employees on a regular basis. Specific information about OSHA’s standards and regulations can be found on OSHA’s website and on the MN Department of Labor 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 OSHA. Employees are protected against retaliation for any of the following:
- 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
What is considered retaliatory employer conduct?
Unfortunately, employers sometimes do retaliate against employees who might expose them to liability and/or expense for OSHA violations. 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
Can I file a lawsuit against my employer?
Federal OSHA Retaliation claims must be filed with OSHA within six months of the violation – there is no right to bring a private lawsuit under federal law. As an employee in Minnesota, you may initiate your complaint with the MN Department of Labor, but you may also have additional rights to bring a private lawsuit against your employer. Our experienced attorneys can review your case under both federal and state laws and help you maximize your compensation for retaliation.
Employees that are injured on the job due to health and/or safety violations should also seek the assistance of a Workers’ Compensation attorney that can assist in addressing the physical injury.
Finally, in addition to legal claims under OSHA 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.
Contact Our Minnesota Employment Lawyers
Wanta Thome PLC is dedicated to protecting the rights of employees throughout Minnesota. If you believe your employer is violating OSHA standards, failing to provide a safe workplace, or has retaliated against you for exercising your rights, contact us for a free initial consultation.