Spotlight on employers' retaliation re accident/injury reporting

How would you feel if, as a Central Valley worker, you knew that a required drug test automatically awaited you in the event that you suffered an on-the-job accident or illness? Even if you wouldn't mind such an outcome, do you think that a blanket drug-testing rule in your company might preclude some other workers from coming forward to report accidents or dangerous workplace conditions?

What about a situation where you or a team of employees you work with might suffer the loss of a bonus or other company perk for filing an accident or injury report? Some employers hand out extra money to work teams with perfect health/safety records. Might not such a policy reasonably deter one or more workers from reporting a safety or health-related matter of material importance?

It is concerns such as these that motivate federal safety regulators to closely scrutinize the policies and actions taken by employers in California and elsewhere across the United States that arguably elevate safety risks for workers.

The primary worry is this: Such policies and official responses can intimidate or otherwise influence workers to not speak up at all.

And the effect of that in any workplace is both obvious and dire, namely, that significant safety- and health-related problems can go unaddressed and create progressively more dangerous work environments.

OSHA recently tweaked an existing federal rule regarding on-the-job illness and injury reporting, specifically spelling out new conditions relevant to company actions that might reasonably be deemed as being in bad-faith retaliation to employees' attempts -- and fundamental need -- to speak up at the workplace.

A recent adjustment to the effective date for the rule now posits a take-effect date of November 1.

The aim of the regulation is simple and straightforward: to increase the confidence of workers across the country who feel they have a legitimate need to speak up regarding an accident or injury matter.

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