Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act

Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970

In 1970 Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act (Pub. L. 91–596, § 2, 84 Stat. 1590) to ensure workplace safety. Section 11(c) of the Act protects employees from retaliation for exercising a variety of rights guaranteed under the Act, such as complaining to their employer, OSHA or other government agencies about unsafe or unhealthful working conditions in the workplace; or for participating in OSHA inspection conferences, hearings, or other OSHA-related activities.

The OSH Act applies to the private sector, the U.S. Postal Service, and certain tribal employers. Complaints must be filed as soon as possible, within 30 days of the alleged retaliation, orally or in writing.

Following a complaint, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will investigate the allegations. The investigation must reveal that:

  • The employee engaged in protected activity;
  • The employer knew about or suspected the protected activity;
  • The employer took an adverse action; and
  • The protected activity motivated or contributed to the adverse action.

If the evidence supports the employee’s allegation, OSHA will ask the employer to restore any lost benefits to the affected employee. If a settlement cannot be reached, the Secretary of Labor may file suit in federal district court to obtain relief.