It can be very distressing to find out your employer has done something against the law, but many people in Illinois find themselves in such a situation, and report the illegal activity to the appropriate entities. However, a distressing situation is made even worse when these people face retaliation from their employers simply for doing the right thing and exercising their rights under the law.
Employees in such situations can file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Employees should not wait too long to file a complaint, as there is only a certain timeframe in which they have the legal ability to do so. A complaint can be filed with OSHA via mail, email, hand delivery or calling the area OSHA office.
After receiving the complaint, OSHA will determine if the complaint is valid on its face. There are statutory requirements that address this. OSHA will determine that retaliation occurred if their investigation reveals a number of things. The employee must have engaged in an activity protected under law. The employer must know or suspect the employee has done so, and took some sort of adverse action against the employee. The adverse action must have been motivated by the protective activity.
If the evidence shows the employer unlawfully retaliated against the employee, and the employer and employee cannot settle the issue, OSHA will then issue an order stating that the employer reinstate the employee to their former position, pay the employee back wages and restore benefits to the employee. The employer can contest this order.
This is only a general overview of the OSHA complaint process, and there may be other steps that must be taken in certain situations. It is important for employees in Illinois to understand their rights. An employer cannot treat an employee poorly, or even outright fire the employee, just because the employee exercised legal rights to report employer misconduct. These “whistleblowers” are protected under federal law. Employees in Illinois who want to file a complaint with OSHA should make sure they understand all that is required of them under the pertinent employment laws, so that an appropriate result is reached.