Wrongful Termination of OSHA Whistleblower

California Discrimination Attorneys

While there are numerous federal and state laws that protect whistleblowers rights, there is a section of California’s labor code that specifically protects the right of a whistleblower to complain about unsafe working environments. The same law protects people who report workplace violations to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA). Whistleblower laws ban the retaliation of employers if a worker points out violations of safety.

The state of California wants employees to work in safe environments. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) is a state agency charged with protecting the health and safety of workers in California. The division has jurisdiction over virtually all private employers in California.

California labor code 6310 prohibits employers from discriminating or firing a worker for engaging in any number of specific activities. Such activities include complaining orally or in writing about employee safety or health to the occupational safety and health administration. In addition, labor code 6310 prohibits an employer from firing a worker who “participated in an occupational health and safety committee.”

Workers who file complaints with Cal/OSHA are protected from discrimination

Labor Code section 6310 provides that no person shall discriminate against any employee because the employee has filed a Cal/OSHA complaint.

Some examples of discrimination are:

  • Assignment to an undesirable shift
  • Blacklisting with other employers
  • Damaging credit at financial institutions
  • Demotion
  • Denial of benefits such as sick leave or vacation time
  • Exclusion from normal overtime work
  • Firing
  • Layoff
  • Losing opportunity for overtime or promotion
  • Reducing pay or hours
  • Taking away company housing
  • Transfer

Filing a discrimination complaint

If you believe your employer has discriminated against you because you exercised your right to file a complaint with Cal/OSHA, contact the nearest office of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

Information on how to file a discrimination complaint is available on the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement Web site.

Refusal to work because of an unsafe workplace condition

Labor Code section 6311 provides limited protection for workers who refuse to work because of an unsafe condition in their workplace. The protection exists only when both of the following conditions are met:

  1. A worker refuses to perform work because of a violation of a Labor Code section or a Title 8 safety order.
  1. The violation (in item 1) would create a real and apparent hazard to the worker or his or her fellow workers (an imminent hazard).

Any worker who is laid off or discharged in violation of Labor Code section 6311 has a right of action for wages for the time the worker is without work as a result of the layoff or discharge.

Contact our California Discrimination Attorneys

No one should have their civil rights violated, especially in the workplace. If you believe that your rights as an employee have been violated, we can help. We will make sure that you understand your rights as a worker and we will fight to defend those rights in and out of court.

Call Potter Handy, LLP (415) 534-1911 or email us to schedule a free, confidential consultation.