Know Your Rights

If you are an employee in the United States, you are entitled to a safe workspace. Several federal laws require employers to provide a space free of known health and safety hazards. If you have a question about a health and safety issue at your workplace or would like to discuss your rights as a worker, you can call OSHA toll-free at 800-321-6742. You can also visit your local OSHA office.

 

A safe workspace should include the ability to be trained in a language you understand. You must be able to work on machines that are safe and be provided necessary safety gear. Below are a few additional workers rights to which you are entitled:

 

  • Protection from toxic chemicals
  • The ability to request an OSHA inspection and/or speak with the inspector
  • Report injury or illness
  • Receive copies of medical records
  • Receive copies of a workplace injury and illness log
  • Get copies of test results gleaned to find hazards in the workplace.

 

But what happens when something is wrong? How do you speak up without fear of retaliation? You have several avenues to pursue. If you believe your working conditions to be unsafe or unhealthful, you can file a confidential complaint with OSHA and solicit an inspection. Though workers can do this without discussing the situation with their employer, it is recommended you bring it to their attention. Regardless, see the Department of Labor’s website for instructions on how to file a Safety and Health Complaint.

 

If you have chosen to inform your employer of a specific safety-related situation and have experienced a form of retaliation—a demotion, firing, transfer, &c—you are entitled to file a whistleblower complaint. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against a worker for utilizing their lawful rights. For instructions on how to file a whistleblower complaint, visit the Department of Labor’s Whistleblower Protection Programs website. Take care to file this complaint within 30 days of the alleged retaliation.