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OSHA rule bars retaliation for reporting workplace injuries

Oklahoma workers could gain expanded protection after reporting a workplace injury or illness to an employer. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has delayed its implementation until Dec. 1, a new regulation that requires companies to electronically send injury and illness reports to federal regulators includes a provision about retaliation.

Previously, workers needed to file a complaint with OSHA within 30 days of an employer acting against them after reporting an injury. The new regulation drops the necessity of a worker informing the agency. OSHA can now investigate retaliation claims at the discretion of inspectors.

As a result, some employers became concerned that investigators would consider drug testing after an accident to be retaliatory because OSHA might view the test as an invasion of a worker's privacy. Exemptions within the policy, however, could grant most employers the ability to drug test after an accident. For example, if state workers' compensation laws insisted on post-accident testing, then a claim of retaliation could not be made. Evidence that supports a reasonable concern that drugs or alcohol contributed to the accident could also protect an employer from charges of retaliation.

A person concerned about workplace safety could consult an attorney when thinking about reporting a problem to regulators. An attorney could provide insights about the worker's right to report unlawful activity or negligence that could endanger people. If the worker experienced an injury or illness because of the unsafe conditions, an attorney might also assist with filing a workers' compensation claim. Legal representation could aid in collecting the available benefits.

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