Employees who report misconduct are protected by a number of federal acts called “whistleblower protections.” These acts protect those who report environmental, health, or safety-related hazards at work. You’re also protected against retaliation for reporting sexual assault, sexual or racial discrimination, and other federal violations.
Whistleblower laws can be complicated and vary depending on the unique situation. Some of them require that you report an incident within a certain amount of time. If you’re reporting unethical conduct at work, it’s best that you understand what protections you have after making a complaint. Ideally, you’ll seek legal counsel before proceeding in filing a report.
Requirements for Whistleblower Protection
- As an employee in the United States, you have the right to nonhazardous working conditions
- An employer may not discriminate against you during your employment, or in the hiring or firing process
- If you choose to file an internal complaint, it’s often prudent to file one with the appropriate federal agency at the same time
- An employment law attorney can help you with this process
Whistleblower protections don’t apply in every circumstance. You must show that you believe “in good faith” that your employer broke a federal law with their actions. It’s possible for your employer to deny your claim, assert that you had malicious intentions in filing a complaint, or that you don’t have reasonable grounds to believe what you believe.
Arizona Whistleblower Protection Acts
Many types of professional misconduct are protected by at least one whistleblower act. These acts of misconduct include wage and hourly violations, racial or sexual discrimination, sexual assault or harassment, and serious or willful misconduct that threatens the health and safety of employees. The laws also protect employees against retaliation (such as firing, demotion, or expressed threats) for making a complaint and breaches of their contract.
How to Handle Internal Filings
If you file an internal complaint about unethical business practices at your work, make sure you also file the same complaint with the appropriate federal agency. This may be the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), OSHA, or the EEOC.
Reporting an Act of Discrimination in Arizona
Where you should make your report depends on the business in question. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) is there to handle federal claims and employers with 15 or more employees. If you work for an employer with 14 employees or less, you can file your complaint with the Arizona CRD (Civil Rights Division) or the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). You don’t need to file a complaint with both agencies as they cooperate with each other in claim processing.
Arizona Civil Rights and EEOC Reporting Deadlines
If you wish to file a complaint with the Arizona Civil Rights Division, you must do so within 180 days of the act of discrimination. For reporting with the EEOC, you must do so within 300 days (or shorter, depending on your situation). Your best bet is to file immediately after the event and to speak with an attorney who can advise you specifically on what’s best for you.
Reporting Labor Violations
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, you can report serious hazards at your workplace and request an OSHA investigation of your claims. If you believe that your employer has retaliated against you after you’ve made a complaint with OSHA, you must file a second complaint regarding the retaliation within 30 days of the event.
You can make a report through the electronic complaint form, mail in a PDF complaint form, or call 1-800-321-OSHA. Keep in mind that submitting a complaint to the OSHA office in your area is your best bet for obtaining an OSHA inspection. Submitting a complaint online will route the information to the appropriate office in your area, while going through the national headquarters is less efficient.
Who can File on Your Behalf?
Even with protections in place, reporting a violation can be uncomfortable. If you experienced an OSHA violation, you may choose a relevant party to act on your behalf. According to OSHA, a nonprofit organization, government official, spouse (or next of kin), social worker, clergy member, attorney, or labor organization can report for you.
How Working With an Attorney Can Help
Legal disputes and problems can come up unexpectedly during your employment or during the hiring or interviewing process. Any ex-employee, current employee, or applicant has legal rights and may report violations to the appropriate agency. No matter what type of employment-related issue you’re facing, an employment law attorney can answer your questions, review your documents, or act on your behalf when necessary.
FAQ on Reporting Misconduct at Work
Here are some frequently asked questions related to reporting unethical or unsafe violations at work:
Q: What are some examples of health hazards at work?
A lack of access to personal protective equipment, a confined space entry, a lack of hearing or respirator protection, machines without guards, and unsafe welding conditions all qualify. Exposure to dangerous substances (like asbestos) is another example of a health hazard at work. Any violations should be reported to OSHA.
Q: What should I do before filing a complaint with OSHA?
Before you make an official complaint, try to fix the safety or health concern with your manager or supervisor directly. This is the fastest and most effective way to take care of hazardous conditions.
Q: Who is allowed to file an OSHA complaint?
OSHA protects almost all employees in the United States, such as those working in manufacturing, law and medicine, agriculture, construction, private education, longshoring, and more. There are some occupations that are excluded from OSHA, such as self-employed workers, jobs that are covered by other federal laws (such as mining or nuclear energy), and farms employing immediate relatives.
What to Do if You Need Help in Arizona
As an employee in the United States, you have a right to be protected against discrimination, to work in safe conditions, and to receive fair pay. An employment law attorney will help you address your concerns and ensure that your rights are protected at work. They can also help you decide which step is best to take next for your unique circumstances.
Call our Employment Law team at (480) 464-1111 to discuss your case today.