There is a saying that people shouldn’t kill the messenger, which is a way of addressing the negative reactions people often have when finding out about difficult situations. No one wants to deliver bad news to others because they fear the emotional reaction of the other party. Even when the person reporting an issue played no direct role in causing the problem, the other party may become angry and lash out because they dislike the news that they receive.
You always have to worry about friends and family members reacting poorly when you have to tell them something upsetting or negative. There could be much more to lose when the party you need to speak to is an employer or manager, rather than a loved one. Workers who notice serious safety issues have the right to speak up about their concerns.
Advising management for human resources of safety violations and concerns protects the worker making the report and all of their co-workers. Unfortunately, the messenger advising the company of a safety issue may worry about facing retaliation.
What is employer retaliation?
When a business punishes someone for engaging in a protected workplace activity, the company has retaliated against that individual. Retaliation could involve a company summarily firing an individual who makes a report. It could also involve demoting someone, denying them future opportunities, reducing their pay or otherwise considering their decision to speak up when making important employment decisions.
Federal law protects your right to a safe workplace
Addressing safety concerns is a basic workplace right. Especially if your job is in manufacturing, construction or another high-risk industry, the ability to speak up about your safety concerns is invaluable.
Not only do you have the right to speak up when you notice something unsafe at work, but you also have the right to be free from retaliation after doing so. Retaliation is illegal under federal law, and it can result in grounds for a lawsuit against an employer.
Workers who can show that they reported safety issues and then endured wrongful discharge or other forms of retaliation could potentially bring a lawsuit against their employers. Learning more about your rights will make it easier to fight back if you experience unfair workplace retaliation.