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Can I be punished or discriminated against for filing a complaint

Workers have the right to complain to VOSH and seek a VOSH inspection. The laws of Virginia authorize VOSH to investigate employee complaints of employer discrimination against those who are involved in safety and health activities.

Some examples of discrimination are firing, demotion, transfer, layoff, losing opportunity for overtime or promotion, exclusion from normal overtime work, assignment to an undesirable shift, denial of benefits such as sick leave or vacation time.

Refusing to do a job because of potentially unsafe workplace conditions is not ordinarily an employee right under the Labor Laws of Virginia. (Your union contract may, however, give you this right, but VOSH cannot enforce it.) Discharge or discipline of an employee who has refused to do a job because of a reasonable fear of injury or death is considered retaliatory only if the employee has sought to have the employer correct the hazard and the statutory procedures for securing correction of the hazard would not have provided timely protection. The two considerations in applying this provision are whether the hazard is a real danger of death or serious harm as opposed to a potential danger, and whether there is sufficient time to resort to imminent danger procedures.

Job related illnesses and injuries are not, of themselves, protected activity. There must be some safety/health activity by the employee.

If you believe your employer has treated you differently because you exercised your safety and health rights, contact the VOSH Discrimination Investigator right away. Most discrimination complaints fall under the Labor Laws of Virginia, which gives you only 60 days to report discrimination.

You can telephone, fax or mail your complaint to the address listed below. VOSH conducts an in-depth interview with each complainant to determine the need for an investigation. If evidence supports the worker's claim of discrimination, VOSH will attempt by conciliation to have the violation abated without economic loss to the employee. If the employer objects, VOSH may take the employer to court to seek relief for the worker.

If, after the investigation, VOSH refuses to issue a charge against the employer, the employee can bring an action in a circuit court having jurisdiction over the employer. VOSH is not involved in this private proceeding. See Virginia Code, §40.1-51.2:2.B:

VOSH Discrimination Investigator
Virginia Department of Labor and Industry
Interstate Corporate Center, Building 6,
6363 Center Drive, Suite 101,
Norfolk, Virginia 23502.
Phone: (757) 455-0891 Ext. 134
Fax number: (804) 371-6524.

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Virginia Department of Labor and Industry - Headquarters: Main Street Centre Bldg. 600 East Main Street, Suite 207, Richmond, Virginia 23219-4101
Telephone Number - Office: 804.371.2327 TDD: Fax: 804.786.2376 - Our Hours are from 8:15 A.M. to 5:00 P.M., Monday - Friday