Ensuring a Safe Work Environment
All workers in the Golden State are entitled to healthy and safe work environments. The state of California has a division dedicated to ensuring the safety of workers called the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. If you feel your workplace is hazardous to your employees, you should contact CalOSHA. Afterward, the agency will look into the complaints that it has received. Workers who have been discriminated against because they filed a CalOSHA complaint or assisted with an investigation have the legal right to sue their employers for retaliation.
Who is Cal/OSHA meant to protect?
Cal/OSHA was created to safeguard almost every individual in the workplace, from managers and supervisors to hourly workers. However, not all jobs are covered by Cal/OSHA. In general, Cal/OSHA does not protect independent contractors or occupations classed as home domestic services. If you are uncertain whether Cal/ OSHA’s regulations apply to you or your workplace, you should consult with your employer or Cal/OSHA.
How to report a complaint
If you want to notify Cal/OSHA about safety or health risks at work, you can do one of the following:
Call the nearest Cal/OSHA Enforcement District Office between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday (except on state holidays). Staff at Cal/OSHA can talk to you about your complaint and answer any questions you have.
Send an email to the nearest Cal/OSHA Enforcement District Office to your place of work. Cal/OSHA will get your email during normal business hours, and if they have any questions about the complaint, they will contact you.
Cal/OSHA worker privileges
Workplaces with personnel exposed to hazardous materials are subject to additional regulations. The employer is responsible for providing safety data sheets for any potentially harmful substances used in the workplace and providing appropriate training for all personnel. Worker protections are outlined in detail on the CalOSHA poster, which includes the following:
- The privilege of making anonymous complaints and requesting impartial audits
- the ability to report dangerous working circumstances to a CalOSHA inspector
- The freedom to decline assignments that violate health and safety policies
- Protection against reprisal is a human right.
Additional protections for workers are provided under Titles 6310 and 6311 of the California Labor Code.
When a problem arises, how does Cal/OSHA handle it?
If there have been complaints about major or immediate dangers, Cal/OSHA will typically conduct an on-site inspection. Cal/OSHA can contact many companies regarding worker concerns because letter investigations assist in resolving less significant risks. Once again, their identity will be hidden unless the complainant specifically wishes differently.
When a complaint is made, Cal/OSHA sends a letter to the company involved detailing the nature of the complaint and the employees of the potential dangers they may face. Within 14 days, the company must reply in writing, including the issues discovered and the steps taken or planned to address them. Cal/OSHA is less likely to perform an on-site inspection if they get a satisfactory answer. An on-site inspection by Cal/OSHA will be scheduled if replies are deemed inadequate. The initial complainant will get a copy of the employer’s answer and, if unsatisfied, may request an on-site inspection provided they give their contact information.
Refusal to Work And Complaints To Cal/Osha
If any of the following conditions apply, workers have the right to decline to report for duty:
- An employee’s reasonable and good-faith conviction that a given situation or hazard poses an unreasonable and severe threat to their health or life
- The company either won’t or can’t fix the problem that’s putting workers in harm’s way.
- Waiting for a Cal/OSHA investigation would be risky due to the imminent nature of the threat.
- There is no viable option but to strike for the worker.
Usually, workers should notify their employer about a dangerous situation before they refuse to work until the issue is fixed. A written report is suitable if the problem does not pose an immediate threat, and the employee should be allowed to continue working until the issue is resolved. The employee can submit a complaint with Cal/OSHA if the employer refuses or fails to address the issue.
Whistleblowers anti-discrimination protection
A whistleblower who has filed a complaint with Cal/OSHA is protected from discrimination under section 6310 of the Labor Code. Discrimination can take many forms, including:
- Wrongful termination,
- Wrongful transfer,
- Unfair layoff,
- Loss of overtime or promotion potential,
- Assignment to an unfavorable shift,
- Refusal to provide paid time off like sick or vacation days,
- Barring from using company vehicles,
- Damage to credit ratings, and
- Reductions in both pay and hours worked.
Contact the local office of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement if you feel your employer is retaliating against you because you pursued a complaint with Cal/OSHA. The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement has a website detailing registering a discrimination complaint.
Contact an Employment Lawyer
Workers’ Compensation cases can be complex. Your employer will likely fight back against a wrongful termination case. You need someone on your side to protect your rights and get the money you deserve.
Los Angeles attorney Sam Setyan has helped countless clients in your situation. Call Setyan Law at (213)-618-3655 for a consultation.