What to Expect During a Whistleblower Investigation | Mann & Elias

Contact Our Experienced Whistleblower Retaliation Lawyer Los Angeles

The United States currently has over 20 statutes regarding whistleblowers. These are instituted to protect employees from things like retaliation, consumers, the environment, financial reform, and so much more. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the agency responsible for handling whistleblower investigations.

All employers must create a workplace where their employees feel comfortable and can voice their concerns without any fear of retaliation. When employees voice concerns about the safety of their work environment with their employer, they should be received professionally. If retaliation occurs, the employee can report it with OSHA.

What Defines Retaliation?

Formally defined, retaliation happens when an employer takes adverse action, such as firing an employee, for engaging in an activity that is protected under the Whistleblower statutes. Adverse action is defined as any action that would work to dissuade a reasonably minded employee from raising concern about violations with their employer. Let's take a look at some examples of retaliation so that you can get a better idea of what forms it comes in.

  • Firing
  • Failing To Hire
  • Denying Benefits
  • Reducing Pay and/or Hours
  • Making Threats
  • Blacklisting
  • Demoting
  • Harassment / Intimidation

Some adverse actions of retaliation can be confusing to determine. If you aren't sure whether or not your scenario constitutes unlawful retaliation, then you should enlist the help of an employment attorney in Los Angeles. They can use their experience and knowledge of past judgements to determine whether or not your scenario is a retaliation.

How Do You File A Whistleblower Complaint?

You should always consider contacting an informant attorney in Los Angeles to review your situation before filing a claim. They can help you throughout the investigation process to ensure that your best interests are looked after. Let's take a look at the basic process of filing a whistleblower complaint.

You will be filing your complaint with OSHA. There are four different ways that you can file a complaint. These include:

  • Online Complaint Form
  • Fax/Mail/Email
  • Telephone
  • In Person

For those who do not speak English overly well, it's satisfying to know that OSHA accepts complaints that are written in all languages. They always have available representatives who can assist you in filing your complaint at their local office or regional area facilities. It may also be beneficial to employ a workplace lawyer to help with filing a complaint with OSHA.

The Time Limit Matters

Your case highly depends on the amount of time that has passed since the adverse action happened. With over 20 different whistleblower statutes, there are varying time limits for filing your complaint with OSHA. These run anywhere from 30 to 180 days from the date of the incident.

On the lower end of 30 days, there are some common statute violations. These include violations regarding the Clean Air Act, Solid Waste Disposal Act, and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. In the middle of 90 days, you'll need to file for situations regarding violations of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act. Lastly, many violations are under the 180-day reporting category. Some of the most popular are:

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Act
  • The Affordable Care Act
  • The Federal Railroad Safety Act
  •  The Pipeline Safety Improvement Act.
Have Documentation Ready

When you file a complaint with OSHA, you should have documentation readily available for submission. This will be copies of any relevant documents related to your claim. You should have the names, titles, and contact information for all of those who are named in your complaint. You'll also need proof of your employment and any retaliation that was taken against you. An attorney will be able to help you gather this necessary information to file your claim with OSHA.

Expect To Undergo An Interview

You and your legal representation will undergo an interview regarding your complaint. This is where an OSHA investigator can determine the need for an investigation regarding your complaint. If the investigator deems your complaint worthy of an investigation, they will get started accordingly.

The OSHA investigator will interview your employer, witnesses, and anyone else you mentioned in your complaint and/or interview. They will look for supporting evidence regarding the retaliation action to ensure that it happened. At this point, the investigation can take some time.

Notes Of The Investigation Process

There are some necessary parts of the investigation process that every person should know. First of all, both the employer and the employee will get copies of all documents submitted to OSHA for investigation. Second, the employer will be given the opportunity to provide a written letter of defense for the allegations against them. Third, both parties may settle their complaint outside of OSHA at any time throughout the investigation process. 

What Outcome Can You Expect From Your Complaint?

Once a decision is made, OSHA will take necessary action to remedy the situation. This can be a number of different outcomes. Some of the most common are restoring an employee's job, their benefits, and their earnings. With some employers, they will offer a settlement when an investigation begins. For others, you may have to wait until the conclusion of the investigation to receive your remedy for retaliation.

OSHA's final conclusion regarding your case will be written up in a Findings Letter. A copy of this letter will be delivered to you via your experienced lawyer and employer. It will state the remedy that is necessary and the rights of both parties to object to the conclusion of the investigation. If either party objects to the remedies sought after by OSHA, they may have the case heard by an administrative law judge.

The only exceptions are cases under section 11(c), ISCA, or AHERA. With these complaints, appeals must go directly to the OSHA'S National Office. If both parties are unable to come to a settlement, OSHA will pass on the case to the Department of Labor. The case will then be tried in a district court regarding the retaliation.

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