In a statement released on April 8th, the Department of Labor vowed to protect workers who report unsafe working conditions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) is encouraging workers to submit whistleblower complaints to the agency if they encounter misconduct.
Speaking Out About Unsafe Conditions on the Frontlines
The Department of Labor’s statement comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has made healthcare workers’ jobs increasingly perilous. Healthcare facilities are facing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as life-saving equipment.
Some healthcare professionals have been terminated as a result of speaking out about their working conditions. According to a recently published Bloomberg news article, in New York, NYU Langone Health System has warned its employees that they could be fired for talking to the media without approval.
It is illegal to retaliate against employees who speak out about unsafe working conditions, such as lack of PPE, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you have been retaliated against or terminated for speaking up about unsafe work conditions, you have certain rights. It is against the law for an employer to retaliate against an employee for exercising a protected right. While healthcare facilities have faced uncharted territory with respect to COVID-19, retaliation and termination of employees who speak out about safety concerns are not appropriate.
Forms Of Retaliation
Retaliation comes in many shapes and sizes. Some examples of retaliatory actions include termination, discipline, demotion, and harassment. If a negative employment action is based on the fact that an employee engaged in a legally protected activity, it can be violative of the employee’s rights.
“Employees have the right to safe and healthy workplaces,” said Loren Sweatt, the assistant labor secretary in charge of OSHA. “Any worker who believes that their employer is retaliating against them for reporting unsafe working conditions should contact OSHA immediately.”
Contact Our Employment Law Attorneys For A Free Consultation
At McOmber McOmber & Luber, we take a proactive approach to each and every legal issue our clients face, helping both employers and employees with legal areas including employment contracts, discrimination, law, litigation, whistleblowing, and retaliation issues. Please call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, our Marlton office at 856-985-9800, OR contact us at 888-396-0736 or online for a free consultation. We represent clients throughout New Jersey.