In the state of California, all workers have the right to work in a place that’s safe and doesn’t put them at unnecessary risk. Unfortunately, though, some employers fail to maintain a safe and healthful workplace. If that happens in your workplace, you have the right to file a complaint – and it’s unlawful for your employer to retaliate against you for doing so. This guide explains your right to a safe workplace and what you can do if you’re working in unnecessarily hazardous conditions.
Your Right to a Safe and Healthful Workplace
The California Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973 was designed to assure “ safe and healthful working conditions for all California working men and women by authorizing the enforcement of effective standards, assisting and encouraging employers to maintain safe and healthful working conditions, and by providing for research, information, education, training, and enforcement in the field of occupational safety and health.”
That means it’s your employer’s responsibility to ensure that you are in a safe place while you are at work. If your employer fails to do so, you have legal rights.
Imminent Hazards and Complaints
If a condition or practice in your workplace is unsafe or creates a hazard that could reasonably be expected to cause someone to die or come to serious physical harm immediately, you can file an imminent hazard complaint. These types of complaints go directly to the California Department of Industrial Relations, and your employer is legally required to investigate and make necessary corrections.
In order for the Department of Industrial Relations to consider a hazard to be imminent:
- There must be a threat of serious physical harm or death or
- There must be a reasonable expectation that toxic substances are present, and being exposed to them can harm people
Additionally, the threat must be imminent or immediate. You have to believe that serious physical harm or death could occur within a short period of time.
What is a Whistleblower Complaint?
Whistleblowers are people who sound the alarm about hazardous conditions (or about other types of conditions not related to safe workplaces). Anyone can file a whistleblower complaint, and in fact, if your workplace has unnecessary hazards, you may have a moral obligation to do so. If you fail to notify the proper authorities, someone could be harmed or killed.
Can Your Employer Retaliate Against You for Making a Complaint?
Employers are not allowed to retaliate against people who make complaints about hazardous conditions in workplaces. In fact, they aren’t allowed to discriminate against people who complain in any way. that means your employer cannot do any of the following as a result of you filing a complaint:
- Fire you
- Demote you
- Transfer you
- Lay you off
- Take away your overtime hours
- Put you on an undesirable shift
- Deny you benefits (such as sick leave or vacation time)
- Blacklist you with other employers
- Reduce your pay or hours
If your employer does any of these things as a result of you filing a complaint, you may have legal recourse. You should talk to a California workplace rights attorney who can help you understand your options.
What is Your Employer’s Responsibility to You?
In a general sense, employers are required to maintain safe and healthful workplaces for all their employees. That’s even true in jobs that are inherently dangerous, such as construction and maintenance work. Though some hazards will always be present in some workplaces, employers are required to mitigate risk and make workplaces as safe as possible.
Some of the responsibilities that employers have to workers include to:
- Establish, implement and maintain programs that keep employees safe
- Conduct workplace inspections to identify hazardous conditions, and to correct them when necessary
- Provide and pay for personal protective equipment that’s necessary for completing a job
- Ensure that employees have safe tools and equipment, and to properly maintain that equipment
- Provide signage, labels or even color codes to warn workers of potential hazards
Employers have a variety of other responsibilities to workers, too. If you believe that your employer isn’t living up to its responsibilities, you may want to talk to a California workplace rights attorney about your situation.
Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Your Right to a Safe Workplace or Retaliation After Filing a Complaint?
If you need to talk to an attorney about your right to a safe workplace or the fact that you’ve been retaliated against for filing a complaint, we may be able to help you. Call us at 818-230-8380 now to schedule your free consultation with an experienced, caring and committed attorney. If it’s easier, fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.