OSHA’s new anti-retaliation provisions go into effect on August 10, 2016. The provisions require employers to: 1) inform employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses without being subjected to retaliation; and 2) establish procedures for reporting work-related illnesses and injuries that are reasonable and do not discourage reporting.
Employees may already file anti-retaliation complaints under Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The change will allow OSHA to issue a violation and issue an abatement order instead of suing under 11(c). OSHA is targeting cases where employees’ firing is justified based on their failure to follow a safety policy when in fact they were terminated for reporting a subsequent injury or illness. OSHA will investigate complaints to determine whether to issue a citation and order a remedy such as reinstatement of the employee with back pay and purging their personnel file.
Employers should review their policies, update them as necessary, and train managers to be extremely diligent in documenting performance issues in a timely manner. After an accident is reported, the burden may now be on the employer to justify the non-accident-reporting basis for any action.