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Can I Be Fired For Reporting Safety Violations?

by | May 27, 2022 | Employment Law, Retaliation, Whistleblower Claims, Wrongful Termination |

What is a whistleblower claim?

Best Employment Lawyer Answer: Many states have laws that protect employees from being retaliated against or wrongfully fired for reporting unsafe or criminal activity at work. However, these whistleblower statutes usually require employees to follow very strict requirements to gain protection, which emphasizes the need to get advice from a qualified employment lawyer as quickly as possible.

For example, Ohio’s Whistleblower Statute, R.C. § 4113.52 expressly identifies precise procedures that an employee must comply with in order to gain statutory protection. Specifically, R.C. § 4113.52(A)(1)(a) addresses where an employee becomes aware of a violation of any state or federal statute that the employer has the authority to correct, and the employee reasonably believes that the violation either is a criminal offense that is likely to cause an imminent risk of physical harm or a hazard to public health or safety or is a felony. There are two important components to break down here. First, in order for the Whistleblower Statute to apply, the employer must have the ability to fix the violation. If the violation is outside the employer’s control, the statute will not apply. Second, the violation does not actually have to be a criminal offense that is likely to cause an imminent risk of physical harm or a hazard to public health or safety nor is a felony – only that the employee reasonably thinks that it is. To that end, the law encourages employees to protect what they reasonably believe is a criminal offense that is likely to cause an imminent risk of physical harm or a hazard to public health or felony and will not punish them for being wrong.

Under these conditions, pursuant to R.C. § 4113.52(A)(1)(a), an employee must both orally notify his or her supervisor or other responsible officer of the employer of the violation and then also provide that person with a written report sufficiently detailing the violation. Ohio courts have very strictly enforced these requirements, and the failure to properly comply can doom a whistleblower claim. An employee who fails to provide the employer with the required oral and written notification will not get statutory protection.

If the employee satisfies these requirements, and the employer does not correct the violation or make a reasonable and good faith effort to correct the violation within 24 hours following the earlier of the oral or written notification, whichever is earlier, the employee may then file a written report with the prosecuting authority of the county or municipal corporation where the violation.

Employers who retaliate against an employee who make a compliant report under the Whistleblower Statute will have violated the statute and be liable to the employee. (Best Law Read: What Is An Adverse Employment Action?).

What is an example of a whistleblower claim?

Best Wrongful Termination Attorney Answer: Let’s look at the recent trial between Ocal “Bubba” Smith and Appalachian Power. Bubba worked for Appalachian Power for over 17 years but observed that management started creating an unsafe work environment between 2018-19. Specifically, in addition to not providing protective gear, Bubba said that Appalachian Power was not following safety procedures: “We don’t want anyone getting killed trying to turn the lights on, if the manual said use a rope to do this, I want to use a rope to this. Well, if the manual said, use the rope, my managers said no we don’t need to do that.” So, Bubba started filing written reports.

When Appalachian Power became tired of dealing with Bubba, it not only fired him but took the extra step of banning him from their property, which made it difficult for Bubba to find a new job.

While Appalachian Power argued to the jury that Bubba was fired for other reason, the jury did not believe its excuse. (Best Law Read: Employment Discrimination Question: What Is Pretext?).

What is a whistleblower claim worth?

Best Whistleblowing Lawyer Answer: Every case is different and comes down to factors that will be specific to each case. In Bubba’s case, the jury found that Appalachian Power was liable for wrongful termination and awarded Bubba $2.3 million. While an appeal is likely coming, this verdict demonstrates that juries do not take kindly to employers firing employees for trying to protect safety rights at work.

How do I sue the company I work for if I was fired for reporting safety violations?

Best Employees’ Rights Law Firm Answer: Most states, including Ohio, Michigan, and North Carolina, have passed laws that provide job protections to employees who report or oppose illegal or unsafe conduct or work conditions, such as OSHA violations, embezzlement, unlawful discrimination, or patient abuse, to name a few. Again, in order to have the protections under the law, there are a lot of steps that each employee must take. That is why it is absolutely critical for any employee confronted with illegal or unsafe conduct or work conditions at work to immediately consult with employment law lawyers in order to make sure that everything is done right. If you wait until you are fired, you may have already lost your claim. Do not wait. If you have seen any illegal or dangerous conduct on your job, then the best thing you can do is call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Call our Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toledo, Akron, and Detroit attorneys for help right now. Don’t wait any longer. The Spitz Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting Ohio employees from retaliation after blowing the whistle on unlawful and hazardous activities at work.

Disclaimer:

The materials available at the top of this whistle blower claims page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “what should I do if I am being harassed for reporting safety violations on my job”, “Can I be reported for reporting OSHA violation to my manager?”, “Am I protected after reporting a lack of safety equipment?”, or “can my employer fire me if I refuse to work in unsafe working conditions?”, it would be best for you to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to particular whistleblower claims questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, attorney Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.