For many years, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) – a division of the U.S. Department of Labor – has provided protections to employees by establishing programs, policies and procedures aimed at creating safe and healthy working conditions for all U.S. workers.
OSHA regulations also address whistleblower protections. If a worker files a complaint – blows the whistle – or brings to light a safety issue or health code violation, his or her employer is prohibited from retaliating against that employee.
Starting in 2014, employees in Michigan and across the nation will have additional protections when they blow the whistle for employer violations of provisions under Title 1 of the Affordable Care Act.
Affordable Care Act protections
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) – formally referred to as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – was signed into law in 2010 by President Obama. The goal of the ACA is to reform the U.S. health care system.
Title 1 of the ACA deals with providing quality health care coverage for all Americans through such means as premium cost reduction for individuals and tax breaks for employers. Unfortunately, some employers violate ACA rules either inadvertently or in an effort to cut costs illegally. Such violations harm employees and they are urged to bring such violations to the attention of officials.
With recent whistleblower protection changes, private and public sector employees will have increased protection from retaliation for reporting ACA Title 1 violations. The expanded rules protect employees who:
- Report alleged Title 1 violations
- Receive federal health insurance income tax credits
- Receive health plan cost sharing reductions
- Provide information, testify or participate in proceedings regarding alleged violations
- Refuse to participate in activities that may violate Title 1 provisions
Retaliation against employees
Employers may retaliate against their employees in a variety of ways. Acts of retaliation may include such actions as:
- Demotion or reassignment to a less desirable position
- Denial of overtime, benefits or promotion
- Harassment, intimidation or threatening behavior
- Reduction in pay or hours
- Wrongful discharge or termination
If an employee believes he or she is the subject of retaliatory action by an employer, OSHA provides a formal complaint procedure. A complaint must be filed within 180 days of the alleged violation and OSHA officials then investigate the allegations. If a decision is rendered in favor of the employee, OSHA may require his or her employer to right the wrong committed against the worker.
Seek legal assistance
The complaint process as well as the ACA and OSHA rules can be confusing. If you or someone you know suffers from retaliation in the workplace, consult an experienced employment law attorney. A lawyer knowledgeable about employee rights, retaliation and whistleblower laws can help.