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Could you be fired if you file a workplace safety complaint?

Employees in Maryland deserve a safe working environment and the federal government recognizes that. There is a federal agency -- the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) -- that provides standards for workplace safety and sanctions for those employers who violate those standards.

For example, workers have the right to be provided with appropriate safety equipment and they deserve to be kept safe from toxic environments in the workplace. Should an employer violate any a safety standard, injured or concerned employees may want to notify OSHA of the situation to have them step in and investigate it. Yet many workers may fear to do so. Could you be fired if you file an OSHA complaint?

Fortunately, workers are protected under the law in these situations. Under section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, an employer cannot legally fire or in any other way discriminate or retaliate against an employee who exercises their OSHA rights. For example, an employer in these situations cannot legally discharge, discipline, demote or cut an employee's pay if that employee blows the whistle on an illegal safety practice. Such acts by an employer are considered "adverse actions" and are prohibited by the Occupational Safety and Health Act. If such discrimination or retaliation occurs, employees have 30 days to report the incident to OSHA. A form is not needed in such situations.

No employee deserves to be retaliated against simply for standing up for their rights and reporting an OSHA violation after a work injury due to a hazardous condition. In addition to exercising their rights under OSHA, employees injured at work may also want to seek workers' compensation. Regardless of whether the employer at fault, a workers' compensation claim can be filed to seek recovery for medical expenses and lost wages. That being said, readers should keep in mind that the above information is not meant to be specific legal advice. Each person's situation is different when it comes to their rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act and under the laws of workers' compensation. An attorney may be able to best analyze a person's individual case.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration U.S. Department of Labor, "All About OSHA," accessed on Aug. 23, 2014

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration U.S. Department of Labor, "All About OSHA," accessed on Aug. 23, 2014

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