Leading the fight for safe and healthy workplaces

You are here

What You Can Expect After You File An 11(c) Whistleblower Complaint


What You Can Expect After You File An 11(c) Complaint:
(1) In response to your complaint, an OSHA investigator will interview you about what happened, which will be written down as a statement for you to sign. You should give the investigator the names of any witnesses who can confirm your allegations. The more written documentation you can provide, the better, so you are less dependent on whether you are assigned a knowledgeable and motivated investigator.

(2) After the investigator obtains your signed statement, he or she will prepare a letter informing your employer that OSHA is investigating your 11(c) complaint. In most cases, the investigator will deliver the letter to your employer by hand and will immediately interview any witnesses who are in the workplace.

(3) The investigator will interview your employer, too. Your employer might claim you were punished for another reason, such as lateness. In that case, the inspector will ask to see records that document the accuracy of such charges. Your employer cannot use something you’ve done as an excuse for punishing you when you exercise an OSHA right. Other witnesses will also be interviewed.

(4) The investigator will meet with you when the investigation is over. If OSHA believes there is not enough evidence to prove your complaint, OSHA will close the case and send you a letter explaining why. You then have 15 days to send an appeal to: Office of Investigative Assistance, U.S. D.O.L. – OSHA, Room N3603, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20210.

(5) If the OSHA investigation determines that you were punished for exercising an OSHA right, OSHA may begin to negotiate a settlement with your employer immediately. In that case, OSHA may ask your employer to restore to you whatever was illegally taken away, such as rescinding a demotion, transfer, or dismissal, including payment of lost wages and fringe benefits. Undocumented workers can receive back pay but will not be reinstated.

(6) If OSHA comes to an agreement with your employer for a settlement, OSHA will ask if you will join in the agreement. If you will, then the case is settled. If you will not agree to the terms that OSHA and your employer agree on, OSHA has the power to settle the case unilaterally, without your agreement.

(7) When OSHA negotiates with the employer for a settlement, its policy is to seek to “make the victim whole,” that is, to recover everything a worker lost because of the retaliation, including all wages, benefits, seniority, and leave time (plus interest). OSHA is also able to seek “punitive damages” — monies a worker could receive up to three times above and beyond lost wages and benefits — but OSHA rarely pursues this option. If you believe you have suffered blatant illegal retaliation for your health and safety activities, encourage OSHA to pursue punitive damages. Punitive damages are important to deter employers from becoming repeat offenders. See factsheet on the Cambridgeport decision.

(8) If OSHA decides you have a valid case and it cannot reach a settlement agreement with your employer, OSHA will refer the case to prosecutors at the Labor Department. The Labor Department can (and often does) send the case back to OSHA for more negotiations with your employer; or it can sue your employer in federal court, asking for a court order that will force your employer to make restitution.

For more information, contact your local COSH group or your local OSHA office, which you may reach by dialing 1-800-321-OSHA.

Other Information About Whistleblower Protection

What Employer Activities Are Considered Retaliation?

How OSHA Determines If Retaliation Took Place

Things to Remember Before You File an 11(c) Whistleblower Complaint