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Discrimination Filing Complaints

The Occupational Safety and Health Act was enacted to achieve safer and more healthful workplaces throughout the nation. The Act provides for a wide range of substantive and procedural rights for employees and representatives of employees.

To help ensure that employees are, in fact, free to participation in safety and health activities, Section 11(c) of the Act prohibits any person from discharging or in any manner discriminating against any employee because the employee has exercised rights under the Act.

These rights include complaining to OSHA and seeking an OSHA inspection, participating in an OSHA inspection, and participating or testifying in any proceeding related to an OSHA inspection.

"Discrimination" can include the following actions:

* Firing or laying off
* Assigning to undesirable shifts
* Blacklisting
* Demoting
* Denying overtime or promotion
* Disciplining
* Denial of benefits
* Failure to hire or rehire
* Intimidation
* Transferring
* Reassigning work
* Reducing pay or hours

OSHA also administers the whistleblowing provisions of thirteen other statutes, protecting employees who report violations of various trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, and securities laws.

The 14 statutes enforced by OSHA and the regulations governing their administration are listed below. Click on any statute to review the text of the whistleblower protection provisions.

* Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA)

* The Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 (STAA)

* The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986 (AHERA)

* The International Safety Container Act of 1977 (ISCA)

* The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 (SDWA)

* The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 (FWPCA)

* The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA)

* The Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1976 (SWDA)

* The Clean Air Act of 1977 (CAA)

* The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA)

* The Energy Reorganization Act of 1978 (ERA)

* The Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21)

* Section 806 of the Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act of 2002 (CCFA) (Sarbanes-Oxley Act)

* Section 6 of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 (PSIA)


Regulations

* 29 CFR Part 1977 - Discrimination Against Employees Exercising Rights under the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970

* 29 CFR Part 1978 - Rules for Implementing Section 405 of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982

* 29 CFR Part 1979 - Procedures for the Handling of Discrimination Complaints under Section 519 of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century

* 29 CFR Part 1980 - Procedures for the Handling of Discrimination Complaints under Section 806 of the Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act of 2002

* 29 CFR Part 1981 - Procedures for the Handling of Discrimination Complaints under Section 6 of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002

* 29 CFR Part 24 - Procedures for the Handling of Discrimination Complaints under Federal Employee Protection Statutes [DOL Site]


Filing a Complaint

If you believe your employer has discriminated against you because you exercised your safety and health rights, contact your local OSHA Office right away. Most discrimination complaints fall under the OSH Act, which gives you only 30 days to report discrimination. Some of the other laws have complaint-filing deadlines that differ from OSHA's, so be sure to check.

You can telephone, fax or mail your OSHA complaint. OSHA conducts an in-depth interview with each complainant to determine the need for an investigation. If evidence supports the worker's claim of discrimination, OSHA will ask the employer to restore the worker's job, earnings and benefits. If the employer objects, OSHA may take the employer to court to seek relief for the worker. The procedures for investigations of discrimination complaints are contained in the OSHA Whistleblower Investigations Manual.