The Occupational Safety and Health Act prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report workplace injuries to OSHA. On March 1, OSHA filed a lawsuit against a Massachusetts construction company whose CEO allegedly reported a hospitalized worker to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) following an OSHA inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the injury.
The employee fell from a ladder and was hospitalized. While the injured worker did not report the incident to OSHA, the agency received a report from emergency responders who treated the employee at the accident scene. OSHA alleges that once the employer was made aware of the OSHA inquiry, the CEO called ICE and arranged for the employee’s detention upon his return to the workplace. The complaint claims that the employee should have been protected from retaliation, even though he was not the source of the accident report to OSHA.
An employee’s possible ineligibility to work in the U.S. does not deprive him or her of OSHA whistleblower protections. Even though the court cannot order reinstatement of an undocumented worker, the suit seeks back wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief against similar conduct in the future.