OSHA Affirms Whistleblower Protection For Employees Reporting Workplace Injuries

April 3, 2012 by
Filed under: APWU, osha 

From the American Postal Workers Union:

Reporting work-related injuries and illnesses is “a core employee right,” the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has pointed out, “and retaliating against a worker for reporting an injury or illness is illegal discrimination.”

In a March 12 memo, OSHA noted, “If employees do not feel free to report injuries or illnesses, the employer’s entire workforce is put at risk,” the memo points out. “Employers do not learn of and correct dangerous conditions that have resulted in injuries, and injured employees may not receive the proper medical attention, or the workers’ compensation benefits to which they are entitled. Ensuring that employees can report injuries or illnesses without fear of retaliation are therefore crucial to protecting worker safety and health.”

The memo advises OSHA regional administrators and whistleblower program managers to be aware of four potentially discriminating policies employers may have regarding an employee who reports an on-the-job injury:

  • Taking disciplinary action regardless of the circumstances of the injury;
  • Disciplining an employee for violating an employer rule about the time or manner for reporting injuries and illnesses;
  • Disciplining an employee for an injury that resulted from the employee violating a safety rule, and
  • Offering incentives to not report injuries; for example, offering prizes to employees who were not injured in the previous year.

OSHA also said that the practice of linking management and supervisor bonuses to lower accident reporting could be potentially discriminatory. “Such policies could discourage reporting of injuries and could be considered unlawful discrimination,” the memo stated.

Retaliation against an employee for reporting an occupational injury is a violation of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

To see the memo in its entirety, visit www.osha.gov/as/opa/whistleblowermemo.html.

Department of Labor Sues USPS for Whistleblower Violations

The threat of retaliation is real concern for postal employees who report injuries or who assist injured employees in exercising their rights.

On Feb. 27, the U.S. Department of Labor sued the U.S. Postal Service alleging the Postal Service engaged in discrimination and retaliation against a safety specialist who provided information to an employee wishing to file a safety complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

OSHA’s investigation determined that the Postal Service followed a pattern of adverse actions against the safety specialist, who was assigned to the Seattle Processing and Distribution Center after learning that he had assisted an employee in exercising her rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

That employee later filed a formal complaint with OSHA alleging unhealthful conditions at the facility. The specialist subsequently suffered a series of reprimands, was restricted from contact with staff at the facility, and was transferred to an office without the necessary equipment to perform his job.

The investigation also found that the USPA reassigned many of the specialist’s duties to an individual with a lower pay grade and did not select him for a promotion because of his interactions with OSHA despite acknowledging him as qualified for the position.

The DOL is asking the court to remedy the situation by ordering a permanent injunction against the Postal Service to prevent future violations of the law. The suit also asks for appropriate relief to the safety specialist, including the payment of lost wages and benefits, plus compensatory damages for emotional distress.

Click here for more information on the suit.

Comments

4 Comments on OSHA Affirms Whistleblower Protection For Employees Reporting Workplace Injuries

  1. Tori on Wed, 4th Apr 2012 7:06 am
  2. What about postal employees that want to transfer to another station or plant but is denied because of safety issues (reporting an injury). That is another vengeful tactic. If I am not mistaken you can’t transfer to another job even if your plant is closing!

  3. Pat O'Rourke on Wed, 4th Apr 2012 8:49 pm
  4. Tori,that is when you contact O.S.H.A. ( listed in the phone book) and claim discrimination based on your having exercised your rights under the O.H.S.Act. Past practice excluded injured employees from receiving consideration for transfer to another station. Doing this is retaliation against that person for having utilized a provision of Federal Law and is illegal. Just make sure you have all your facts at your disposal as you will need proof and not just a “feeling” this was truly the case.

  5. Mark Comerford on Fri, 6th Apr 2012 5:58 am
  6. The Post Office is rife with threats and intimidation. No matter what happens to you every accident is your fault and you will be disciplined. Falling on ice and breaking your leg makes your postmaster because you did it on purpose according to him.

    Congress should have fixed the atmosphere in the post office years ago, but, as they are demonstrating now, they are worthless if someone isn’t bribing them.

    They, Congress, just had to pass a law preventing them from insider trading. Who, is going to enforce it?

    Watch out Congressman Polis, Colorado

  7. Teresa on Sat, 7th Apr 2012 3:18 pm
  8. I was injured at work. I reported it immediately to my supervisor, she asked if I could just finish the job prepping for AFSM 100. I injured my back permanently.
    When I returned after being put off work by my doctor for 3 days, I could still not stand and had to leave and go to the emergency room. I informed my supervisor then that it was an actual injury, not just my back needing a chiropractor. I was told when I come back she would “help” me with the proper forms and was I sure it was work related. I had had an exray on my back and it did indicate an injury. I was scheduled for an mri.. the mri took 4 weeks to actually get scheduled. When I came back to work with the mri results, my supervisor got in contact with the work compensation coordinator. (atleast she said she did). I ended up getting ahold of the coordinator myself and telling him my supervisor refused to give me the work compensation forms. He sent me the forms by mail. I took them to my doctor, he filled it out. I filled out my portion. Now suddenly my supervisor was moved out on a detail with only 3 days notice. So I went to the MDO and he said I would have to wait for my supervisor to come back to have her fill out her section. That would be 3 months…. detail, which subsenquently turned into 6 months. The MDO refused to fill out managements portion. Long story short I was never given any compensation or notification that my form ever made it to the work compensation coordinator. I have a valid *known injury of bulging disks in my back, because I was never made aware that this injury is common with the use of tubs of flats in hampers. Had I been aware of any safety issues of this kind I would have protected my back!!! I have no recourse or recovery available to me, and I just think it is criminal that the USPS who touts safety first, really means no communication and if you get injured your screwed by those you work for.