Helping Employers Prevent & Defend Against Claims of Whistleblower
If an employee makes a complaint about workplace safety, the employer is
prohibited from retaliating against that employee. The law is intended
to promote workplace safety by protecting employees' ability to raise
safety concerns, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA) takes claims of retaliation seriously.
However, our firm knows one vital fact: Not every allegation of retaliation is valid.
Often, nonperforming employees will allege retaliation just to protect
themselves from their own improper action. We help employers defend themselves
against inaccurate claims that they retaliated against workers.
At Hendershot Cowart P.C., our lawyers serve the needs of businesses in
Houston and throughout Texas. We help employers prevent and deal with
OSHA claims, including allegations of retaliation.
retaliation against a worker occurs when an employer takes an adverse action
against the employee because the employee engaged in a protected activity,
such as reporting a safety concern. Retaliation can be subtle. Examples of adverse actions include:
Firing or laying off the worker
Demoting, blacklisting, or disciplining the worker
Denying overtime or promotion
Reducing pay or hours
Reassignment to a less desirable position
Workers who believe they have been subject to retaliation for raising concerns
about workplace safety can file a whistleblower claim with OSHA, which
must investigate the claim. For employers, these claims can be complicated;
there are many reasons to change a worker's job duties, hours, and responsibilities.
Workers may claim they're victims of retaliation, but employers often
change a worker's employment status for reasons completely unrelated to
retaliation and that may be justified.
Documentation Needed to Defend Against OSHA Retaliation Claims
The best way to defend against a retaliation claim is to document all actions taken following
an employee complaint about workplace safety and to thoroughly investigate
Among other things, employers should:
Follow through on employee safety concerns promptly, even if they appear
to be trivial. Maintain the employee’s confidentiality to prevent
further retaliation or isolation by coworkers.
Be transparent with the employee about next steps, including investigation
procedures. Keep the reporting employee informed of all developments throughout
the investigation and follow up with the reporting employee to ensure
continued protection from retaliation. Document your communications.
Investigate claims using an objective, independent complaint review process
while avoiding conflicts of interest and preconceptions. For example,
such an investigation should be independent from the company’s legal
counsel, who is obligated to protect the employer’s interests.
Keep comprehensive personnel files. If an employee violates an OSHA rule,
safety protocol, or workplace rule, document the violation and take witness
statements. Keep evidence and documentation to support your actions.
Ensure that any subsequent employment status changes are made for valid,
non-retaliatory reasons and that you have previous, progressive documentation
of those reasons.
More Ways to Protect Texas Employers from Retaliation Complaints
Employers can further protect themselves from claims of whistleblower retaliation by:
Demonstrating a commitment to preventing retaliation at the management
level by training managers on what retaliation is and their legal obligations
to prevent retaliation.
Putting systems in place that enable and encourage employees to report
hazards, safety concerns, and acts of retaliation through multiple channels.
Make sure these systems protect the reporting employee’s confidentiality.
Documenting the process for receiving and responding to reports of retaliation,
including the investigation and resolution procedure.
Monitoring and auditing your anti-retaliation program by analyzing reporting
trends, ensuring managers are following policy, and surveying employees
to see if they are comfortable reporting safety concerns.
Retaliation claims can be damaging for employers, which is why it is important
to take steps to reduce the chances of a successful retaliation claim
and to work with an experienced
OSHA defense attorney if you suspect a retaliation claim could be, or has been, filed.
Defending Employers Against Retaliation Claims for More than 30 Years
Our OSHA defense law firm helps businesses reduce the risk of claims of
retaliation and defends employers' interests when employees claim retaliatory
acts. With more than 30 years of experience, we understand the real-life
issues employers face every day in complying with the complex and ever-changing
OSHA standards and guidelines. This experience and understanding positions
us to create strong compliance and defense strategies that meet the needs
of your case.