OSHA: How To File A Complaint

A California Employee's Guide To Filing OSHA Complaints Against Your Employer


When you go to work, you want to be safe. While this seems like a given, some employees think they're stuck with poor working conditions. However, your safety should be a no-brainer. If your kitchen, factory, or storage room glaringly violates OSHA restrictions, then you should report it right away.


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OSHA Protections For Employees


Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was formed in 1970 by the federal OSH Act, which focuses on protecting employees from unsafe and hazardous working conditions. In addition to the right to a substantially safe workplace, OSHA contains basic regulations and rights for employees regarding how the system works.


Here's a few examples of the things you can do as an employee (in accordance with OSHA):

  • You have the right to proper and digestible instruction and information on OSHA requirements and related workplace hazards.

  • As an employee or worker, you have the right to request and review reports related to occupational injuries and illnesses.

  • You, as an employee, have the right to file a formal complaint with OSHA in complete confidentiality (to avoid retaliation from your employer) and to have your employer subjected to an OSHA audit on a specific issue.


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  • You have the right, but not the need, to accompany OSHA inspectors and point out potential offenses once you've requested an investigation.

  • Obtaining or requesting copies of all test results for tests completed during the mandatory inspection (to identify occupational risks is one of the challenges). You have the right to keep your employment, money, and benefits until your manager realizes you were the one who alerted them.

  • Any retaliation you face due to bringing the problem to light is a distinct violation that could lead to a lawsuit.

That said, you have so much more rights under OSHA. Any violations on your employer's part are their liability. If they attempt to unjustifiably punish or get back at you for reporting their violations, then you'll have grounds for a Whistleblower Retaliation in California.


Contact a California Employment Law Attorney to help guide you through the process of filing a complaint and fighting back the unjustified consequences you might experience at work.

How To File An OSHA Complaint In California


1. Request Information


Your boss doesn't have any legal authority to keep you in the dark about OSHA rules, workplace risks, OSHA test findings, or injured workers. However, you have the right to request this information, and your employer is required to give it to you.

As such, here's the general rule about obtaining information:

  • When you initially start working in a company, and every year after that, your supervisor is supposed to inform you they have medical/exposure information on you.

  • Your employer must also inform you of the location of these records and how to obtain them.

  • The employer has 15 business days to respond if you or a delegate seeks such documents.

This information or data can be used as evidence in a complaint about OSHA violations, such as:

  • If chemical exposures exceed the limit

  • Noise levels are harmful

  • Not enough warnings are given to potentially exposed employees

  • Any other breaches are identified in the data

If your employer refuses to give you the requested information, you can request your California Labor Law Attorney to help you get it.

2. Demanding Your Boss To Take Action


As an employee, you have the right to make a formal request to your employer to remove a health or safety issue. If OSHA does not explicitly address the safety issue, you may pursue corrective action. However, even if it isn't expressly stated as a violation, it may violate another state or federal law or constitute negligent behavior.

Employees may be hesitant to risk being unlawfully fired or retaliated against, but remember that you are protected from all forms of retaliation under the law. Furthermore, if the situation is appalling, your and your employees' health may be jeopardized. Often, all it takes to fix a problem is a courageous request for disciplinary action from your boss.


3. Sending Your Written To OSHA


If acquiring documentation and demanding your employer takes action do not provide results in a reasonable amount of time, it may be time to seek legal assistance. You can also contact OSHA directly to file a formal complaint or seek an inspection of the responsible employer or worksite.

OSHA complaints can be submitted online, by phone, fax, or in writing. Your California Employment Attorney can assist you in locating and comprehending the forms you'll need, as well as providing advice on how to complete them. In addition, you can ask OSHA to keep your name anonymous if you don't want your employer to know who filed the complaint.

4. Participate In The OSHA Inspection


Simply make a complaint and wait for OSHA inspectors to arrive and perform their duties. However, following the inspectors with you or an approved delegate (such as a union rep) during the inspection. Your company has no authority to designate the authorized representative. It is prohibited from doing so since it could result in a cover-up attempt.

If a union or a union representative isn't accessible, OSHA may have private one-on-one meetings with a group of workers who are aware of the issues. In addition, infractions, questions, and previously documented occurrences, accidents, or illnesses can all be reported to the OSHA officer.


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If workers believe the conditions seen during the inspection are not as they should be, they must alert the inspector. As a result, it's just been cleaned up and made compliant to pass the inspection and avoid being held responsible for the previously mentioned infringement.

Remember that participating in this inspection shouldn't have employment consequences for you. Your boss cannot fire, demote, suspend, cut your pay, or treat you horribly at work because you filed a complaint. When this happens, contact a California Employment Attorney to help you forward Retaliation and Wrongful Termination Claims.

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