The Significance of OSHA Whistleblower Deadlines

By: Attorney Shannon Polvi

Employees file a whistleblower complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) if the employer retaliates because of a protected activity relating to workplace safety or health, environmental, cargo containers, airline, commercial motor carrier, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation, railroad, maritime, consumer product, financial reform, consumer finance, mortgage regulations, and securities. Many of our clients are not aware of the laws that require that complaints be filed with OSHA within a certain number of days after the alleged retaliation.

All of the whistleblower laws enforced by OSHA have short deadlines to file a whistleblower complaint. Many of the laws have a 30-day deadline. If you or someone you know has been terminated after they opposed any type of action by their employer that they believe was unlawful, they should immediately contact an attorney. It sometimes happens that people consult with us after too much time has elapsed after termination. Some employees lose viable claims because they waited too long to act.

I have represented clients under nearly all of the OSHA enforced statutes. The law that I most frequently represent clients with OSHA claims is the Occupations Safety and Health Act (“OSH Act”). The OSH Act protects workers who complain to their employer, OSHA, or other government agencies about unsafe or unhealthy workplace or environmental conditions. The OSH Act is one of the laws with the shortest deadlines to file a whistleblower complaint. An aggrieved employee must file a complaint with OSHA within 30 days of the alleged reprisal action, i.e. termination.

There are a few whistleblower laws that do not arise frequently because of the niche nature of the law. For example, I have not yet represented a client with claims arising under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA). AHERA and its regulations require public school districts and non-profit schools including charter schools and schools affiliated with religious institutions to inspect their schools for asbestos-containing building material. To timely preserve an AHERA whistleblower claim, an employee who believes that he or she has been retaliated against in violation of AHERA must file a complaint within 90 days from the time that the adverse action is communicated to the employee.

The cardinal rule is that an employee, believing they were subjected to retaliation, should not wait to consult with a lawyer. I recommend scheduling a consultation as soon as possible.

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