Strategies for Protecting K-12 School Staff from COVID-19

Workers’ rights

Employees have the right to safe and healthy workplaces. If an employee believes working conditions are unsafe or unhealthful, the employee may file a safety and health complaint with OSHA at any time. If possible, employees should tell their employer about any concerns. For more information on how to file a safety and health complaint, visit OSHA’s File a Complaintexternal icon website.

Employees also have the right to speak up about hazards without fear of retaliation. Section 11(c)external icon of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970external icon, 29 USC 660(c), prohibits employers from retaliating against workers for raising concerns about safety and health conditions. Acts of retaliation can include terminations, demotions, denials of overtime or promotion, or reductions in pay or hours. Any worker who believes that their employer is retaliating against them for reporting unsafe working conditions should contact OSHA immediately. OSHA encourages workers who suffer such retaliation to submit a complaint to OSHAexternal icon as soon as possible in order to file their complaint within the legal time limits. Complaints under section 11(c) must be filed within 30 days after the alleged unfavorable employment action occurs (that is, when the employee is notified of the retaliatory action).

Note that if the condition clearly presents a risk of death or serious physical harm, there is not sufficient time for OSHA to inspect, and, where possible, the employee has brought the condition to the attention of their employer, they may have a legal right to refuse to work in a situation in which they would be exposed to the hazard. Visit OSHA’s Workers’ Right to Refuse Dangerous Workexternal icon website to learn more.

OSHA recommends employers review its publication Recommended Practices for Anti-Retaliation Programspdf icon.

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