The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) encourages workers to speak up when they feel that safety is being compromised in a workplace, and OSHA comes down hard on employers who are accused of retaliating against workers who do come forward.
If a worker believes that he or she has been retaliated against, the worker can file a claim with OSHA, which will then begin an investigation. An OSHA investigation can be time-consuming, expensive and reputation damaging, which is why it's something that employers should try to avoid.
In order to avoid being accused of retaliating against a worker, it's important to understand what retaliation means.
OSHA defines retaliation as firing or laying off the worker; demoting, blacklisting or disciplining the worker; reducing the worker's pay or denying benefits; or intimidating the worker.
Now that you understand what constitutes retaliation, you can begin implementing measures to avoid accusations of it. One of the main things your business can do is to keep accurate and detailed records.
Effective record-keeping can be a life-saver when it comes to defending against retaliation claims because it can help employers show the true reasons they made certain changes to a worker's job.
This includes keeping a personnel file for all employees that details any employee-violations of OSHA rules, safety protocols or any other workplace rules. Not only should you document the violation but also take witness statements and keep any other evidence that helps show what happened.
When a worker claims that retaliation took place, the employer's records can prove that job changes were in response to employee wrongdoing and not related to retaliation.
Another important step your business should take is creating and promoting safety rules.
Employees should know that their safety is a priority, and they should be assured that they will not be retaliated against if they raise concerns.
From our offices in Houston, we not only represent businesses accused of retaliating against employees, but advise businesses on how to avoid running the risk of being accused of retaliation in the first place. As with most legal issues affecting businesses, the best defense is a good offense.