Retaliation threatens workers' rights

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In 2014, Worksafe launched an initiative to tackle the problem of illegal employer retaliation against workers who attempt to exercise their occupational safety and health (OSH) rights, such as reporting an injury, illness or hazard.

Both Cal/OSHA and federal OSHA have laws to protect workers who exercise their occupational health and safety rights. All workers have the right to report injuries, illnesses, and health and safety issues in the workplace without being retaliated against. Workers also have the right to refuse unsafe work if they believe there is the possibility of a serious injury or death. (See California Labor Code 6310 and 6311.) To learn more about your right to refuse unsafe work, and what is required for you to be able to exercise that right, check out our fact sheet.

Unfortunately, workers often find that when they do speak up, they face illegal retaliation.

What does retaliation look like?

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Addressing Illegal Retaliation: Policy Recommendations

In 2015, we released our report, Improving OSH Retaliation Remedies for Workers (PDF), which detailed our work on occupational safety and health retaliation. Many workers who experience workplace health and safety issues continue to work in problematic work environments where the threat of retaliation for reporting injuries, illnesses, or hazards is constant. Employers and their agents have far too frequently shown that they will use retaliatory means to silence workers in order to keep their safety record clean and their workers’ compensation premiums low.

Worksafe has been advocating for the health and safety rights of workers for the past three decades. These include the right to know about hazards in the workplace, the right to be protected from hazards, and the right to take action and report hazardous workplace conditions without fear of reprisal.

Workers are the experts on their own workplace conditions. Their experiences regarding workplace hazards provide invaluable information to government agencies and advocates to help track and identify workplace hazards, target violating employers, and develop strategies to improve health and safety in the workplace. For these reasons, it is extremely important to ensure that workers' rights are protected so that they can voice concerns with their employers without reprisal.

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