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OSHA to employers: Cannot retaliate for COVID-19 safety complaints

Posted On: Apr. 9, 2020 12:15 PM CST


Employees are filing coronavirus-related whistleblower complaints, prompting the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to remind employers they cannot retaliate against workers who report unsafe working conditions.

Since March 1, 2020, OSHA has received 386 COVID-related whistleblower complaints, with the vast majority citing violations of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who raise safety and health concerns with supervisors or file a safety and health complaint with OSHA. These complaints are related to scenarios in restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, nursing homes, etc., according to a spokeswoman. Many of the complaints have been referred to state OSHA plans, but the federal agency is also investigating a number of the complaints and trying to determine the extent to which they apply to airline, railroad, trucking or other potentially impacted industries, she said.

OSHA received a total of 2,355 informal complaints between March 1 and Tuesday.

“Employees have the right to safe and healthy workplaces,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren Sweatt said in a statement Wednesday. “Any worker who believes that their employer is retaliating against them for reporting unsafe working conditions should contact OSHA immediately.”

Illegal acts of retaliation can include terminations, demotions, denials of overtime or promotion, or reductions in pay or hours, according to the agency.

More insurance and risk management news on the coronavirus crisis here.