What protections do I have if I speak out?

As an employee, you have the right to work in a workplace that's free from unsafe conditions. If you see hazardous conditions that could affect you and your co-workers, there's a moral calling to report it. Unfortunately, some employers may not like the extra scrutiny and financial obligations they'll incur in order to fix the issue. Since you're the one who spoke out, you become a target of retaliation. That could be:

  • Laying you off.
  • Demoting you.
  • Denying you a promotion or overtime hours.
  • Reassigning you.
  • Reducing your hours or pay.
  • Intimidating you.

If you feel that you've been retaliated against, it's important to act quickly by notifying the proper authorities. Depending on the field in which you work, the governing body could be (with reporting time limits in parentheses):

  • Occupational Safety and Health Act (30 days).
  • Asbestos Hazard Emergency  Response Act (90 days).
  • Surface Transportation Assistance Act (180 days).
  • Federal Rail Safety Act (180 days).
  • International Safe Container Act (60 days).
  • National Transit Systems Security Act (180 days).

The investigation into the incident will look at a number of factors:

  • Whether your activity was protected;
  • Whether the employer knew of the protected activity;
  • Whether the employer took an action against the whistleblowing;
  • That action was motivated by the protected activity.

These cases can be complicated and can pit you against large employers with almost unlimited resources. In order to protect your rights, it may be in your best interest to hire an experienced attorney who specializes in employees' rights.

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