What happens if a South Carolina employee is fired for reporting health and safety violations to OSHA, i.e., OSHA retaliation? Luckily, employees do have some protections for this type of retaliation, but the reporting requirements are time sensitive.
South Carolina has laws concerning the health and safety of employees in the workplace. These laws are administered by SC OSHA (Occupation Safety and Health Administration), which is under the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (SC LLR). As part of these laws, companies are prohibited from firing or otherwise retaliating against employees for reporting injuries, accidents, or health and safety issues to OSHA. This includes employees who complain internally about about health or safety issues to supervisors or management. Of course, not all companies appreciate their employees reporting to OSHA, and retaliation can (and does) occur in South Carolina, up to and including termination (also called retaliatory discharge).
So, what are a South Carolina employee’s options if the company has committed OSHA retaliation by retaliating against the employee for reporting to OSHA?
First, the employee must file a complaint with SC OSHA within 30 days of the retaliation. Failure to file within that deadline bars the employee from pursuing the claim further. So if you have an OSHA retaliation claim, you should speak with a South Carolina employment lawyer immediately about your rights and any applicable time limitations. Unlike other anti-retaliation laws, the employee does not have a right to file a lawsuit against the company. Only SC LLR can file the lawsuit on behalf of the employee. The employee must proceed through the administrative complaint process and wait to see if LLR will take and file the case.
The complaint process for OSHA retaliation is relatively straightforward. SC OSHA provides an online form for an employee to fill out to initiate the complaint process. The employee can file the complaint on his/her own, or the employee’s attorney can file the complaint for the employee. The online form requires the employee to provide relevant contact information and details about the retaliation that the employee experienced.
Once the complaint is filed, SC OSHA will assign an investigator to the complaint. The investigator will interview the employee and prepare an affidavit (a sworn, written statement) for the employee to sign that outlines the events giving rise to the retaliation. Once the employee provides the affidavit, the investigator may interview witnesses, get statements, and gather documents. At some point, SC OSHA will issue a finding as to whether there is reasonable cause to support the employee’s allegations of retaliation. If SC OSHA does find cause to support the complaint, it will move forward with filing a lawsuit against the company. SC OSHA can recover lost wages and procure reinstatement for you if the case is successful.
If you, as a South Carolina employee, are retaliated against or fired because you complained about health or safety concerns, then you should speak with an employment lawyer immediately. Given the tight time constraints in filing the complaint for OSHA retaliation, make sure you do not delay. Further information and FAQs are available at the SC LLR website.