Employee Rights 101: Complaints vs. Refusal to Work
The intricacies of employee rights can be confusing. Many workers wonder what the boundaries are when it comes to safety, how much they are expected to work, and getting paid appropriately, among other issues. Employment law encompasses many complexities, but understanding the basics surround important issues relevant to you will help you make the best decisions in the workplace.
When Can You Refuse Dangerous Work?
Are you concerned about the working conditions at your job? Generally speaking, you can refuse to do work that you feel is dangerous — but that does not mean that you will be protected from getting fired or other types of retaliatory efforts by your employer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has specific regulations regarding safety and an employee’s protection from retaliation from their employer for refusal to perform a specific task or tasks related to your job.
The first thing that OSHA recommends you to do is to go to your employer to let them know of unsafe or unhealthful conditions. It is your right to file a complaint with OSHA at any time, but that does not mean you should leave the worksite or refuse to perform an assigned task. If you believe the conditions at work present a risk of serious physical harm or death, where that is not enough time for OSHA to inspect the job site, you may have the legal right to leave a place where you would be exposed to a particular hazard or refuse to perform a specific unsafe task.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the United States, these regulations have been enlarged and amended in an effort to cover issues unique to the pandemic. In addition, guidelines have been issued interpreting the regulations. OSHA now has guidelines regarding Personal Protective Equipment that provides standards and requirements for employers to follow. These requirements are intended to promote as safe of a workplace as possible for employees.
Do Employees Have a Right to Question or Complain About Safety, Wages, and Other Rights?
As mentioned above, if you have a safety concern, it is recommended to go to your employer regarding the issue. Even if your employer is uncomfortable about the situation, you have a right to question unsafe practices and voice objections. If the complaint is not addressed appropriately, then an OSHA official complaint may be the next best step.
You also have the right to go to your employer if you feel you are not being paid appropriately for time worked. Wage and hour disputes can include:
- Failing to pay wages on time
- Failing to pay overtime rates or withholding overtime pay
- Withholding salary or wages over a specified time period
- Issues with wage garnishment
- Failing to pay minimum wage
Other complaints may include unpaid overtime or issues involving employment contracts.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for employers to retaliate against employees either when they come to them with an unofficial complaint or due to an official complaint filed with OSHA or other types of employee rights cases. If you feel you have been retaliated against because you have questioned unsafe working conditions or made any type of complaint, consult with an employment attorney to determine your best legal options. The timeframe within which to lodge a complaint of retaliation with OSHA is very short-as short as 30 days from the date of the retaliatory action- so swift action on your part is needed to protect your rights.
Take Action if You Feel Your Employee Rights Have Been Violated
Have you contracted COVID-19 on the job? You may have a case against your employer. Contact an employment attorney as soon as possible. There are statutes of limitations for filing a case.
Have you made a complaint about unpaid wages or unpaid overtime and were retaliated against? You have a right to fair wages and equal treatment on the job.
Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. works with employees across the state of Florida when their employment rights have been violated. We are the employee’s law firm – fighting for your rights against powerful employers.
Contact us today for a free consultation.