Know Your Rights As A Worker (And Whistleblower)

 In The Buzz
At SpillFix, we’re committed to worker safety. That’s exactly why we set out to invent our SpillFix products in the first place: to ensure that not only were we selling green products made from a renewable resource, but that those same products were also nontoxic and completely safe to handle. The reality, however, is that even at companies with the best of intentions, at any time, any worker in the United States may experience some sort of problem at their worksite. Anyone – from fuel distributors to lubricant distributors, to construction workers, to temp workers, and more – can potentially find themselves a witness to or victim or misconduct, alleged dishonest or illegal activity. Worse still is the fact that sometimes, the employers that employees have to approach to voice their concerns actually retaliate against the very people trying to raise those concerns! People who find themselves in these sorts of situations are known as whistleblowers. While the biggest name people think of when they imagine a whistleblower is “Edward Snowden,” the truth is that every year thousands of American workers may view some sort of illegal activity that might affect their, or the public’s, health and safety. We’re happy to say, however, that steps are being taken every year to make it easier for workers to reclaim their right to a safe and legal work environment. In fact, 2013 was the first time in seven years that OSHA’s whistleblower investigation determinations outnumbered the new cases opened by the agency. This new ratio in open vs. closed complaints is a result of both increased program budgets and overall efforts to address the problems workers are bringing up, as well as ensure that workers are not punished for voicing their concerns. Thanks to these budget increases, OSHA staff are bringing more timely relief to those suffering from retaliation in the workforce – and that is wonderful news for workers in 2014. Plus, whistleblowers are now even able to file complaints online – a testimony to the day and age we live in and an encouraging sign that OSHA wants to make this process as easy as possible for those who need it. Of course, ideally we would live in a world where a whistleblower right’s program isn’t even needed. Sadly, while we and many other businesses are actively listening to our employees in an ongoing effort to increase worker safety, health and security through an open dialogue and mutual trust, this is not the case everywhere yet. The good news, however, is that improved closure rates of whistleblower complaints and investigations is likely to lead to an increase in the utilization of whistleblower protections. This would mean that the change some need to see in the workforce can begin where it is needed. Our hope for 2014 is that everyone – from fuel distributors to lubricant distributors, to construction workers, to temp workers, and more – is able to voice concerns to employers without fear of retaliation. If, however, a worker finds themself in the unfortunate situation where this hope is not realized, then remember your rights as a worker and a whistleblower. You can find further reading on this topic here (a pamphlet about worker’s rights) and here (a fact sheet about one’s rights as a whistleblower). Happy New Year, everyone – make it a safe and healthy one!