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- FirstStep Employment Law Advisor

Basic Overview of Laws

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You have indicated that:

  • You want a Basic Overview of Laws
  • The nature of your business or organization is: Retail trade
  • The maximum number of employees your business or organization employs or will employ during the calendar year is zero.
  • Your establishment is located in: Michigan, which has its own OSHA state plan.

Since you have indicated that you have no employees, most major Department of Labor employment laws likely do not apply to your business or organization at this time. However, the laws listed below have been provided for you to keep in mind as your organization grows. Each law links to statutory and regulatory information as well as compliance assistance materials.

You should revisit the Advisor if your situation changes and these or other Federal employment laws become applicable to your organization.

In addition to posters of general application, certain organizations may be required to display posters that can only be obtained from DOL's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP). More information on these posters is available. Links to Federal employment posters are always available on the Poster Page. Please note that some localities have workplace poster requirements, as do some other Federal agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development which requires certain businesses to post its Equal Housing Opportunity poster.

Thank you for using the Department of Labor's FirstStep Employment Law Advisor. Please return to the beginning of this Advisor if you want to check the requirements for another establishment.


Title III, Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA)

(15 USC §1671 et seq.(PDF); 29 CFR Part 870)

Who is Covered

Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) is administered by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD). The CCPA protects employees from discharge by their employers because their wages have been garnished for any one debt, and it limits the amount of an individual's earnings that may be garnished in any one week for certain types of debts. Title III may limit garnishment for any employee or individual who receives earnings for personal services (including wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, and periodic payments from a pension or retirement program).

Basic Provisions/Requirements

Wage garnishment occurs when an employer is required to withhold the earnings of an individual for the payment of a debt in accordance with a court order or other legal or equitable procedure (e.g., a debt owed by the individual to a credit card company). Title III prohibits an employer from discharging an employee because his or her earnings have been subject to garnishment for any one debt, regardless of the number of levies made or proceedings brought to collect it. Title III does not, however, protect an employee from discharge if the employee's earnings have been subject to garnishment for a second or subsequent debt.

Title III also protects individuals by limiting the amount of earnings that may be garnished in any workweek or pay period to the lesser of 25 percent of disposable earnings or the amount by which disposable earnings are greater than 30 times the Federal minimum hourly wage prescribed by Section 6(a) (1) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. This limit applies regardless of how many garnishment orders an employer receives. The Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

Title III permits a greater amount of an individual's earnings to be garnished to enforce any order for the support of any person (e.g., spousal support or child support). Title III allows up to 50 percent of an individual's disposable earnings to be garnished for support if the individual is supporting a current spouse or child who is not the subject of the support order, and up to 60 percent if the individual is not doing so. An additional five percent may be garnished for support payments over 12 weeks in arrears.

An individual's "disposable earnings" is the amount of earnings left after legally required deductions (e.g., Federal, state and local taxes; the individual's share of Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance taxes; and contributions to state employee retirement systems required by law) have been made. Deductions not required by law (e.g., union dues, health and life insurance premiums, and charitable contributions) are not subtracted from earnings when the amount of disposable earnings for garnishment purposes is calculated.

Title III's restrictions on the amount of wages that can be garnished do not apply to certain bankruptcy court orders or debts due for Federal or state taxes. Nor do they affect voluntary wage assignments, i.e., situations where workers voluntarily agree that their employers may turn over a specified amount of their earnings to a creditor or creditors.

Employee Rights

Title III will in most cases give individuals the right to receive at least partial compensation for the personal services that they provide despite garnishment. This law also prohibits an employer from discharging an employee because of the garnishment of wages for any single indebtedness. The Wage and Hour Division accepts complaints of alleged Title III violations.

Notices/Posters

There are no poster, notice, recordkeeping or reporting requirements under Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act.

Compliance Assistance Available

More detailed information, including copies of explanatory brochures and regulatory and interpretative materials such as the Federal Wage Garnishment Law Fact Sheet(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs30.pdf), may be obtained from the Wage and Hour Division’s Web site(http://www.dol.gov/whd/) or by contacting a local Wage and Hour Division office(http://www.dol.gov/whd/america2.htm).

Relation to State, Local, and Other Federal Laws

If a state wage garnishment law differs from Title III, the employer must observe the law resulting in the smaller garnishment and must observe any law prohibiting the discharge of an employee because his or her earnings have been subject to garnishment for more than one debt.

Penalties/Sanctions

Violations of Title III may result in the reinstatement of a discharged employee, payment of back wages, and restoration of improperly garnished amounts. Where violations cannot be resolved through informal means, the Department of Labor may initiate court action to restrain violators and remedy violations. Employers who willfully violate the law's prohibition against termination may be prosecuted criminally and fined, or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.

DOL Contacts

Wage and Hour Division(http://www.dol.gov/whd/)
Contact WHD(http://www.dol.gov/whd/contactform.asp)
Tel: 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243); TTY: 1-877-889-5627


Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 (EPPA)

(29 USC §2001 et seq.; 29 CFR Part 801)

Who is Covered

The Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) is administered and enforced by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD). The EPPA applies to most private employers. The law does not cover Federal, state, and local government agencies.


Basic Provisions/Requirements

The EPPA prohibits most private employers from using lie detector tests, either for pre‑employment screening or during the course of employment. Employers generally may not require or request any employee or job applicant to take a lie detector test, or discharge, discipline, or discriminate against an employee or job applicant for refusing to take a test or for exercising other rights under the Act.

Employers may not use or inquire about the results of a lie detector test or discharge or discriminate against an employee or job applicant on the basis of the results of a test, or for filing a complaint or for participating in a proceeding under the Act.

Subject to restrictions, the Act permits polygraph (a type of lie detector) tests to be administered to certain job applicants of security service firms (armored car, alarm, and guard) and of pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, and dispensers.

Subject to restrictions, the Act also permits polygraph testing of certain employees of private firms who are reasonably suspected of involvement in a workplace incident (theft, embezzlement, etc.) that resulted in specific economic loss or injury to the employer.

Where polygraph examinations are allowed, they are subject to strict standards for the conduct of the test, including the pretest, testing, and post testing phases. An examiner must be licensed if required by a state in which the test is to be conducted, and must be bonded or have professional liability coverage. The Act strictly limits the disclosure of information obtained during a polygraph test.


Employee Rights

The EPPA provides that employees have a right to employment opportunities without being subjected to lie detector tests, unless a specific exemption applies. Where polygraph examinations are allowed, they are subject to strict standards at the pre-test, testing, and post-testing stages. Specific notices must be given to employees or prospective employees. The Act also provides employees the right to file a lawsuit for violations of the Act. In addition, the Wage and Hour Division accepts complaints of alleged EPPA violations.


Recordkeeping, Reporting, Notices and Posters


Notices and Posters

Poster.  Every employer subject to EPPA shall post and keep posted on its premises a notice explaining the Act. The notice must be posted in a prominent and conspicuous place in every establishment of the employer where it can readily be observed by employees and applicants for employment. There is no size requirement for the poster. 

The EPPA poster is available in English(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/eppa.htm) and Spanish(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/eppaspan.htm). Posting of the EPPA poster in Spanish is optional.

Notices.  There are specific notices that must be given to examinees and examiners in instances where polygraph tests are permitted:

When a polygraph test is administered pursuant to the economic loss or injury exemption, the employer is required to provide the examinee with a statement prior to the test, in a language understood by the examinee, which fully explains the specific incident or activity being investigated and the basis for testing particular employees. The statement must contain, at a minimum, the following information:

  • An identification with particulars of the specific economic loss or injury to the business of the employer
  • A description of the employee’s access to the property that is the subject of the investigation
  • A detailed description of the basis of the employer’s reasonable suspicion that the employee was involved in the incident or activity under investigation
  • The signature of a person (other than the polygraph examiner) authorized to legally bind the employer

Every employer who requests an employee or prospective employee to submit to a polygraph examination pursuant to the ongoing investigation, drug manufacturer, or security services EPPA exemptions must provide:

  • Reasonable written notice of the date, time, and place of the examination and the examinee’s right to consult with legal counsel or an employee representative before each phase of the test
  • Written notice of the nature and characteristics of the polygraph instrument and examination
  • Extensive written notice explaining the examinee's rights, including a list of prohibited questions and topics, the examinee's right to terminate the examination, and the examinee's right to file a complaint with the Department of Labor alleging violations of EPPA

Employers must also provide written notice to the examiner identifying the persons to be examined.


Recordkeeping

In the limited instances where EPPA permits the administration of polygraph tests, recordkeeping requirements apply both to employers and polygraph examiners. Employers and polygraph examiners must retain required records for a minimum of three years from the date the polygraph examination is conducted (or from the date the examination is requested if no examination is conducted). 

Employers investigating an economic loss or injury must maintain a copy of the statement that sets forth the specific incident or activity under investigation and the basis for testing that particular employee and proof of service of that statement to the examinee.

Employers who manufacture, distribute, or dispense controlled substances must maintain records specifically identifying the loss or injury in question and the nature of the employee’s access to the person or property that is the subject of the investigation.

Every employer who requests an employee or prospective employee to submit to a polygraph examination pursuant to the ongoing investigation, drug manufacturer, or security services EPPA exemptions must maintain:

  • A copy of the written statement that sets forth the time and place of the examination and the examinee’s right to consult with counsel
  • A copy of the written notice provided by the employer to the examiner identifying the persons to be examined
  • Copies of all opinions, reports, or other records furnished to the employer by the examiner relating to such examinations

All polygraph examiners must maintain all opinions, reports, charts, written questions, lists, and other records relating to polygraph tests of such persons, as well as records of the number of examinations conducted during each day, and the duration of each test period.

All exempt private sector employers and polygraph examiners retained to administer examinations to persons identified by employers must keep the required records safe and accessible at the place or places of employment or business or at one or more established central recordkeeping offices where employment or examination records are customarily maintained. If the records are maintained at a central recordkeeping office, other than in the place or places of employment or business, such records must be made available within 72 hours following notice from the Secretary of Labor or an authorized representative such as Wage and Hour Division personnel.


Reporting

There are no reporting requirements under EPPA.


Penalties/Sanctions

The Secretary of Labor can bring court action to restrain violators and assess civil money penalties. An employer who violates the law may be liable to the employee or prospective employee for appropriate legal and equitable relief, which may include employment, reinstatement, promotion, and payment of lost wages and benefits.

Any person against whom a civil money penalty is assessed may, within 30 days of the notice of assessment, request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. If dissatisfied with the Administrative Law Judge's decision, such person may request a review of the decision by the Administrative Review Board which the Secretary of Labor has designated to issue final agency decisions.  Final determinations on violations are enforceable through the courts.


Relation to State, Local, and Other Federal Laws

The law generally does not preempt any provision of any state or local law or any collective bargaining agreement that is more restrictive with respect to lie detector tests.


Compliance Assistance Available

More detailed information, including copies of explanatory brochures and regulatory and interpretative materials, may be obtained from a local Wage and Hour office(http://www.dol.gov/whd/america2.htm).

The Department of Labor provides employers, workers, and others with clear and easy-to-access information and assistance on how to comply with the Employee Polygraph Protection Act. Compliance assistance material related to the Act, may be found on the Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) Fact Sheet(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs36.pdf).


DOL Contacts

Wage and Hour Division(http://www.dol.gov/whd/)
Contact WHD(http://www.dol.gov/whd/contactform.asp)
Tel: 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243); TTY: 1-877-889-5627


Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), as amended

(29 USC §201 et seq.; 29 CFR Parts 510 to 794)

Who is Covered

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA or Act) is administered by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD). The Act establishes standards for minimum wages, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor. These standards affect more than 135 million workers, both full time and part time, in the private and public sectors.

The Act covers enterprises with employees who engage in interstate commerce, produce goods for interstate commerce, or handle, sell, or work on goods or materials that have been moved in or produced for interstate commerce. For most firms, a threshold of $500,000 in annual dollar volume of business applies to be covered (i.e., the Act does not cover enterprises with less than this amount of business).

In addition, the Act covers the following regardless of their dollar volume of business: hospitals; institutions primarily engaged in the care of the sick, aged, mentally ill, or disabled who reside on the premises; schools for children who are mentally or physically disabled or gifted; preschools, elementary and secondary schools, and institutions of higher education; and Federal, state, and local government agencies.

Employees of firms that do not meet the $500,000 annual dollar volume threshold may be covered in any workweek when they are individually engaged in interstate commerce, the production of goods for interstate commerce, or an activity that is closely related and directly essential to the production of such goods.

In addition, the Act covers domestic service employees, such as housekeepers, cooks, gardeners, nurses, or home health aides, if they receive at least $1,900 in 2015 from one employer in a calendar year, or if they work a total of more than eight hours a week for one or more employers. (This calendar year wage threshold is set by the Social Security Administration each year.) For additional coverage information, see the Wage and Hour Division Fact Sheet #14: Coverage Under the FLSA.

The Act exempts some employees from its overtime pay and minimum wage provisions, and it also exempts certain employees from the overtime pay provisions only. Because the exemptions are narrowly defined, employers should check the exact terms and conditions for any applicable exemption by contacting their local Wage and Hour Division office.

The following are examples of employees exempt from both the minimum wage and overtime pay requirements:

  • Executive, administrative, and professional employees (including teachers and academic administrative personnel in elementary and secondary schools), outside sales employees, and certain skilled computer professionals (as defined in the Department of Labor's regulations)
  • Employees of certain seasonal amusement or recreational establishments
  • Employees of certain small newspapers and switchboard operators of small telephone companies
  • Seamen employed on foreign vessels
  • Employees engaged in fishing operations
  • Employees engaged in newspaper delivery
  • Farm workers employed on small farms (i.e., those that used less than 500 "man days" of farm labor in any calendar quarter of the preceding calendar year)
  • Casual babysitters
  • Persons employed solely by the individual receiving services (not an agency, non-profit, or other third party employer) primarily providing fellowship and protection (companionship services) to seniors and/or individuals with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities

The following are examples of employees exempt from the overtime pay requirements only:

  • Certain commissioned employees of retail or service establishments
  • Auto, truck, trailer, farm implement, boat, or aircraft salespersons employed by non manufacturing establishments primarily engaged in selling these items to ultimate purchasers
  • Auto, truck, or farm implement parts clerks and mechanics employed by non-manufacturing establishments primarily engaged in selling these items to ultimate purchasers
  • Railroad and air carrier employees, taxi drivers, certain employees of motor carriers, seamen on American vessels, and local delivery employees paid on approved trip rate plans
  • Announcers, news editors, and chief engineers of certain non metropolitan broadcasting stations
  • Domestic service employees solely employed by the individual, family, or household receiving services (not an agency or other third party employer) who reside in the private home where they provide services
  • Employees of motion picture theaters
  • Farmworkers

Certain employees may be partially exempt from the overtime pay requirements. These include:

  • Employees engaged in certain operations on agricultural commodities and employees of certain bulk petroleum distributors
  • Employees of hospitals and residential care establishments that have agreements with the employees that they will work 14 day periods in lieu of 7 day workweeks (if the employees are paid overtime premium pay as required by the Act for all hours worked over eight in a day or 80 in the 14 day work period, whichever is the greater number of overtime hours)
  • Employees who lack a high school diploma, or who have not completed the eighth grade, who spend part of their workweeks in remedial reading or training in other basic skills that are not job specific. Employers may require such employees to engage in these activities up to 10 hours in a workweek. Employers must pay regular wages for the hours spent in such training but need not pay overtime premium pay for training hours

Basic Provisions/Requirements

The Act requires employers of covered employees who are not otherwise exempt to pay these employees a minimum wage of not less than $7.25 per hour. Youths under 20 years of age may be paid a minimum wage of not less than $4.25 per hour during the first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment with an employer. Employers may not displace any employee to hire someone at the youth minimum wage. For additional information regarding the use of the youth minimum wage provisions, see the Wage and Hour Division Fact Sheet #32: Youth Minimum Wage – FLSA.

Employers may pay employees on a piece rate basis, as long as they receive at least the equivalent of the required minimum hourly wage rate and overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek. Employers of tipped employees (i.e., those who customarily and regularly receive more than $30 a month in tips) may consider such tips as part of their wages, but employers must pay a direct wage of at least $2.13 per hour if they claim a tip credit. They must also meet certain other requirements. For a full listing of the requirements an employer must meet to use the tip credit provision, see the Wage and Hour Division Fact Sheet #15: Tipped Employees Under the FLSA.

The Act also permits the employment of certain individuals at wage rates below the statutory minimum wage under certificates issued by the Department of Labor:

  • Student learners (vocational education students);
  • Full time students in retail or service establishments, agriculture, or institutions of higher education; and
  • Individuals whose earning or productive capacities for the work to be performed are impaired by physical or mental disabilities, including those related to age or injury.

The Act does not limit either the number of hours in a day or the number of days in a week that an employer may require an employee to work, as long as the employee is at least 16 years old. Similarly, the Act does not limit the number of hours of overtime that may be scheduled. However, the Act requires employers to pay covered employees not less than one and one half times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek, unless the employees are otherwise exempt. For additional information regarding overtime pay requirements, see the Wage and Hour Division Fact Sheet #23: Overtime Pay Requirements of the FLSA.

The Act prohibits performance of certain types of work in an employee's home unless the employer has obtained prior certification from the Department of Labor. Restrictions apply in the manufacture of knitted outerwear, gloves and mittens, buttons and buckles, handkerchiefs, embroideries, and jewelry (where safety and health hazards are not involved). Employers wishing to employ homeworkers in these industries are required to provide written assurances to the Department of Labor that they will comply with the Act's wage and hour requirements, among other things.

The Act generally prohibits manufacture of women's apparel (and jewelry under hazardous conditions) in the home except under special certificates that may be issued when the employee cannot adjust to factory work because of age or disability (physical or mental), or must care for a disabled individual in the home.

Special wage and hour provisions apply to state and local government employment. For more information regarding these special provisions, see the Wage and Hour Division Fact Sheet #7: State and Local Governments Under the FLSA.

Employee Rights

Employees may find out how to file a complaint by contacting the local Wage and Hour Division office(http://www.dol.gov/whd/america2.htm), or by calling the program's toll-free help line at 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243). In addition, an employee may file a private suit, generally for the previous two years of back pay (three years in the case of a willful violation) and an equal amount as liquidated damages, plus attorney's fees and court costs.

It is a violation of the Act to fire or in any other manner discriminate against an employee for filing a complaint with an employer or the Wage and Hour Division or for participating in a legal proceeding under the Act.

Notices/Posters

Every employer of employees subject to the FLSA’s minimum wage provisions must post, and keep posted, a notice(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/flsa.htm) explaining the Act in a conspicuous place in all of their establishments. Although there is no size requirement for the poster, employees must be able to readily read it. The FLSA poster is also available in Spanish(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/flsaspan.htm), Chinese(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/minwagecn.pdf), Russian(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/FLSAPosterRuss.pdf), Thai,(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/MinWageThai.pdf) Hmong,(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/MinWageHmong.pdf) Vietnamese(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/minwageViet.pdf), and Korean(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/minwageKorean.pdf).  There is no requirement to post the poster in languages other than English(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/flsa.htm).

Covered employers are required to post the general Fair Labor Standards Act poster. However, certain industries have posters designed specifically for them. Employers of Agricultural Employees (PDF)(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/wh1386Agrcltr.pdf) and State & Local Government Employees (PDF)(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/wh1385State.pdf) can either post the general Fair Labor Standards Act poster(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/flsa.htm) or their specific industry poster. There are also posters for American Samoa (PDF)(http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/americanSamoa/ASminwagePoster.pdf) and Northern Mariana Islands (PDF)(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/cnmi.pdf)

Every employer who employs workers with disabilities under special minimum wage certificates is also required to post the Employee Rights for Workers with Disabilities/Special Minimum Wage Poster(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/disab.htm).

Recordkeeping

Every employer covered by the FLSA must keep certain records for each of its covered employees. Employers must keep records on wages, hours, and other information as set forth in the Department of Labor's regulations. Most of this data is the type that employers generally maintain in ordinary business practice.

There is no required form for the records. However, the records must include accurate information about the employee and data about the hours worked and the wages earned. The following is a listing of the basic payroll records that an employer must maintain:

  • Employee's full name, as used for Social Security purposes, and on the same record, the employee's identifying symbol or number if such is used in place of name on any time, work, or payroll records
  • Address, including zip code
  • Birth date, if younger than 19
  • Sex and occupation
  • Time and day of week when employee's workweek begins
  • Total wages paid each pay period
  • Date of payment and the pay period covered by the payment

The following is a listing of some additional information that an employer must maintain unless the employee is an executive, administrative, or professional employee (including teachers and academic administrative personnel in elementary and secondary schools) or outside sales employee who is exempt from the Act’s minimum wage and overtime requirements:

  • Hours worked each day and total hours worked each workweek
  • Basis on which employee's wages are paid (e.g., "$9 per hour", "$440 a week", "piecework")
  • Regular hourly pay rate
  • Total daily or weekly straight-time earnings
  • Total overtime earnings for the workweek
  • All additions to or deductions from the employee's wages

For a full listing of the basic records that an employer must maintain, see the Wage and Hour Division Fact Sheet #21: Recordkeeping Requirements Under the FLSA. Employers are required to preserve for at least three years payroll records, collective bargaining agreements, and sales and purchase records. Records on which wage computations are based should be retained for two years. These include time cards and piecework tickets, wage rate tables, work and time schedules, and records of additions to or deductions from wages.

Reporting

The FLSA does not contain any specific reporting requirements; however, the above referenced records must be open for inspection by the Wage and Hour Division's representatives, who may ask the employer to make extensions, computations, or transcriptions. The records may be kept at the place of employment or in a central records office.

Compliance Assistance Available

More detailed information about the FLSA, including copies of explanatory brochures and regulatory and interpretative materials, is available on the Wage and Hour Division's Web site(http://www.dol.gov/whd/), or by contacting a local Wage and Hour Division office(http://www.dol.gov/whd/america2.htm). Another compliance assistance resource, the elaws Fair Labor Standards Act Advisor(/elaws/flsa.htm), helps answers questions about workers and businesses that are subject to the FLSA.

The Department of Labor provides employers, workers, and others with clear and easy-to-access information and assistance on how to comply with the FLSA. Among the many resources available are:

Relation to State, Local, and Other Federal Laws

State laws on wages and hours also apply to employment subject to this Act. When both this Act and a state law apply, the law setting the higher standards must be observed. For example, if a state law requires a minimum wage higher than the minimum wage required by the Act, the employer must pay the higher minimum wage.

Penalties/Sanctions

In addition to the rights and remedies available to persons through private suits for violations of the Act, the Department of Labor uses a variety of remedies to enforce compliance with the Act's requirements. When Wage and Hour Division investigators encounter violations, they recommend changes in employment practices to bring the employer into compliance, and they request the payment of any back wages due to employees.

Willful violators may be prosecuted criminally and fined up to $10,000. A second conviction may result in imprisonment. Employers who willfully or repeatedly violate the minimum wage or overtime pay requirements are subject to civil money penalties for each violation.

For child labor violations, employers are subject to a civil money penalty for each violation. In addition, employers are subject to a civil money penalty for each violation that causes the death or serious injury of any minor employee – such penalty may be doubled when the violations are determined to be willful or repeated.

When the Department of Labor assesses a civil money penalty, the employer has the right to file an exception to the determination within 15 days of receipt of the notice. If an exception is filed, it is referred to an Administrative Law Judge for a hearing and determination as to whether the penalty is appropriate. If an exception is not filed, the penalty becomes final.

The Department of Labor may also bring suit for back pay and an equal amount in liquidated damages, and it may obtain injunctions to restrain persons from violating the Act.

The Act also prohibits the shipment of goods in interstate commerce that were produced in violation of the minimum wage, overtime pay, child labor, or special minimum wage provisions. The Department of Labor may seek to enjoin such shipments.

DOL Contacts

Wage and Hour Division(http://www.dol.gov/whd/)
Contact WHD(http://www.dol.gov/whd/contactform.asp)
Tel: 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243); TTY: 1-877-889-5627


Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), as amended

(29 USC §201 et seq.; 29 CFR Parts 570 to 580)

Child Labor (Nonagricultural Work)

Who is Covered

The child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are administered by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD). These provisions are designed to protect the educational opportunities of minors and to prohibit their employment in jobs and under conditions detrimental to their health and well‑being. In nonagricultural work, the child labor provisions apply to enterprises with employees engaging in interstate commerce, producing goods for interstate commerce, or handling, selling, or working on goods or materials that have been moved in or produced for interstate commerce. For most firms, an annual dollar volume of business test of not less than $500,000 applies.

Employees of firms that do not meet the $500,000 annual dollar volume test may be subject to the FLSA’s child labor provisions in any workweek in which they are individually engaged in interstate commerce, the production of goods for interstate commerce, or an activity that is closely related and directly essential to the production of such goods.

The Act covers the following employers regardless of their dollar volume of business: hospitals; institutions primarily engaged in the care of the sick, aged, mentally ill, or disabled who reside on the premises; schools for children who are mentally or physically disabled, or gifted; preschools, elementary and secondary schools, and institutions of higher education; and Federal, state, and local government agencies.

While 16 is the minimum age for most nonfarm work, minors aged 14 and 15 may work outside of school hours in certain occupations under certain conditions. Minors may, at any age: deliver newspapers; perform in radio, television, movies, or theatrical productions; work for their parents in their solely owned nonfarm businesses (except in mining, manufacturing, or in any other occupation declared hazardous by the Secretary); or gather evergreens and make evergreen wreaths.

Basic Provisions/Requirements

The child labor provisions of the Act include restrictions on hours of work and occupations for youths under age 16. These provisions also set forth 17 hazardous occupations orders for jobs that the Secretary has declared too dangerous for those under age 18 to perform.

The permissible jobs and hours of work, by age, in nonfarm work are as follows:

  • Minors age 18 or older are not subject to restrictions on jobs or hours
  • Minors age 16 and 17 may perform any job not declared hazardous by the Secretary, and are not subject to restrictions on hours
  • Minors age 14 and 15 may work outside school hours in various nonmanufacturing, non-mining, nonhazardous jobs listed by the Secretary in regulations published at 29 CFR Part 570 under the following conditions: no more than three hours on a school day, 18 hours in a school week, eight hours on a non-school day, or 40 hours in a non-school week. In addition, they may not begin work before 7 a.m. or work after 7 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended until 9 p.m. The permissible work for 14 and 15 year olds is limited to those jobs specifically listed in the Secretary’s regulations. WHD’s regulations provide some exceptions to these limitations on hours worked for 14 and 15 year olds enrolled in an approved Work Experience and Career Exploration Program (WECEP) or Work Study Program (WSP).

Detailed information on the occupations determined to be hazardous by the Secretary is available from a local Wage and Hour Division office and in 29 CFR Part 570.

By regulation, employers must keep records of the dates of birth of employees under age 19, their daily starting and quitting times, their daily and weekly hours of work, and their occupations. The FLSA provides that an employer that has on file an officially-issued employment or age certificate showing that the minor is the minimum age required by the FLSA is not liable for violating the child labor provisions if that documentation proves to be incorrect. Age or employment certificates issued under most state laws are generally acceptable for this purpose. See 29 CFR 570.5.

Employee Rights

The FLSA also gives an employee the right to file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division and testify or in other ways cooperate with an investigation or legal proceeding without being fired or discriminated against in any other manner.

Notices/Posters

Every employer of employees subject to the FLSA’s minimum wage provisions must post, and keep posted, a notice(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/flsa.htm) explaining the Act in a conspicuous place in all of their establishments. Although there is no size requirement for the poster, employees must be able to readily read it. The FLSA poster is also available in Spanish(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/flsaspan.htm), Chinese(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/minwagecn.pdf), Russian(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/FLSAPosterRuss.pdf), Thai,(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/MinWageThai.pdf) Hmong,(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/MinWageHmong.pdf) Vietnamese(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/minwageViet.pdf), and Korean(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/minwageKorean.pdf).  There is no requirement to post the poster in languages other than English(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/flsa.htm).

Covered employers are required to post the general Fair Labor Standards Act poster; however, certain industries have posters designed specifically for them.  Employers of Agricultural Employees (PDF)(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/wh1386Agrcltr.pdf) and State & Local Government Employees (PDF)(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/wh1385State.pdf) can either post the general Fair Labor Standards Act poster(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/flsa.htm) or their specific industry poster.  There are also posters for American Samoa (PDF)(http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/americanSamoa/ASminwagePoster.pdf) and Northern Mariana Islands (PDF)(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/cnmi.pdf)

Every employer who employs workers with disabilities under special minimum wage certificates is also required to post the Employee Rights for Workers with Disabilities/Special Minimum Wage Poster(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/disab.htm).

Recordkeeping

Every employer covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) must keep certain records for each covered(/elaws/whd/flsa/overtime/glossary.htm?wd=covered), nonexempt(/elaws/whd/flsa/overtime/glossary.htm?wd=non_exempt) worker.

There is no required form for the records. However, the records must include accurate information about the employee and data about the hours worked and the wages earned. The following is a listing of the basic payroll records that an employer must maintain:

  • Employee's full name, as used for Social Security purposes, and on the same record, the employee's identifying symbol or number if such is used in place of name on any time, work, or payroll records
  • Address, including zip code
  • Birth date, if younger than 19
  • Sex and occupation
  • Time and day of week when employee's workweek begins
  • Hours worked each day and total hours worked each workweek
  • Basis on which employee's wages are paid (e.g., "$9 per hour", "$440 a week", "piecework")
  • Regular hourly pay rate
  • Total daily or weekly straight-time earnings
  • Total overtime earnings for the workweek
  • All additions to or deductions from the employee's wages
  • Total wages paid each pay period
  • Date of payment and the pay period covered by the payment

For a full listing of the basic records that an employer must maintain, see the Wage and Hour Division Fact Sheet #21: Recordkeeping Requirements under the FLSA(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs21.pdf). Employers are required to preserve for at least three years payroll records, collective bargaining agreements, and sales and purchase records. Records on which wage computations are based should be retained for two years. These include time cards and piecework tickets, wage rate tables, work and time schedules, and records of additions to or deductions from wages.

Reporting

The FLSA does not contain any specific reporting requirements; however, the above referenced records must be open for inspection by the Wage and Hour Division's representatives, who may ask the employer to make extensions, computations, or transcriptions. The records may be kept at the place of employment or in a central records office.

Compliance Assistance Available

The Department of Labor provides employers, workers, and others with clear and easy-to-access information and assistance on how to comply with the FLSA. Among the many resources available are:

Additional compliance assistance, including explanatory brochures, fact sheets, and regulatory and interpretive materials, is available on the Wage and Hour Division Home Page(http://www.dol.gov/whd).

Relation to State, Local, and Other Federal Laws

Many states have child labor laws. Nothing in the FLSA excuses noncompliance with a state law that establishes a higher standard than that provided in the FLSA. See 29 U.S.C. 218(a).

Penalties/Sanctions

The child labor “hot goods” provision of the Act prohibits the shipment or delivery of goods in interstate commerce that were produced in or about an establishment where a child labor violation occurred in the past 30 days. It is also a violation of the Act to fire or in any other manner discriminate against an employee for filing a complaint or for participating in a legal proceeding under the Act.

Employers are subject to a civil money penalty of up to $11,000 per worker for each violation of the child labor provisions. In addition, employers are subject to a civil money penalty of $50,000 for each violation occurring after May 21, 2008 that causes the death or serious injury of any minor employee – such penalty may be doubled, up to $100,000, when the violations are determined to be willful or repeated. When a civil money penalty is assessed, employers have the right to file an exception to the determination within 15 days of receipt of the notice of such penalty. When an exception is filed, it is referred to an Administrative Law Judge for a hearing and determination as to whether the penalty is appropriate. Either party may appeal the decision of the Administrative Law Judge to the Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board. If an exception is not filed within the 15 days, the penalty becomes final.

The Act also provides for a criminal fine of up to $10,000 upon conviction for a willful violation. For a second conviction for a willful violation, the Act provides for a fine of not more than $10,000 and imprisonment for up to six months, or both. The Secretary may also bring suit to obtain injunctions to restrain persons from violating the Act.

DOL Contacts

Wage and Hour Division(http://www.dol.gov/whd/)
Contact WHD(http://www.dol.gov/whd/contactform.asp)
Tel: 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243); TTY: 1-877-889-5627


The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act)

(29 USC §651 et seq.; 29 CFR Parts 1900 to 2400)

Who is Covered

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) is administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The OSH Act covers most private sector employers and their employees in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories. Coverage is provided either directly by the Federal OSHA or by an OSHA-approved state job safety and health plan.

Federal OSHA also covers certain workers specifically excluded from a state plan, such as those in some states who work in maritime industries or on military bases.

Workers at state and local government agencies are not covered by federal OSHA but are protected under the OSH Act if they work in states that have OSHA-approved state programs. States and territories may also develop plans that cover only public sector (state and local government) workers.

The OSH Act established a separate program for federal government employees. Section 19 of the OSH Act makes federal agency heads responsible for providing safety and healthful working conditions. Although OSHA does not fine federal agencies, it does monitor them and conducts inspections in response to workers’ reports of hazards. Under a 1998 amendment to the OSH Act, the U.S. Postal Service is covered under the OSH Act just like any private sector employer.

The Act does not cover:

  • Self-employed persons;
  • Farms which employ only immediate members of the farmer's family;
  • Working conditions for which other Federal agencies, operating under the authority of other Federal laws, regulate worker safety. This category includes most working conditions in mining, nuclear energy and nuclear weapons manufacture, and many aspects of the transportation industries; and
  • Employees of state and local governments, unless they are in one of the states operating an OSHA-approved state plan.

Basic Provisions/Requirements

The Act assigns OSHA two regulatory functions: setting standards and conducting inspections to ensure that employers are providing safe and healthful workplaces. OSHA standards may require that employers adopt certain practices, means, methods, or processes reasonably necessary and appropriate to protect workers on the job. Employers must comply with all applicable OSHA standards and provide workers with a workplace that does not have serious hazards.

Compliance with standards may include implementing engineering controls to limit exposures to physical hazards and toxic substances, implementing administrative controls, as well as ensuring that employees have been provided with, have been effectively trained on, and use personal protective equipment when required for safety and health, where the former controls cannot be feasibly implemented. Employees must comply with all rules and regulations that apply to their own actions and conduct. Even in areas where OSHA has not set forth a standard addressing a specific hazard, employers are responsible for complying with the OSH Act's "general duty" clause. The general duty clause [Section 5(a)(1)] states that each employer "shall furnish . . . a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees."

The Act encourages states to develop and operate their own job safety and health programs. OSHA approves and monitors these “state plans,” which operate under the authority of state law. There are currently 26 states and 2 territories with OSHA-approved state plans. 21 states and one territory operate complete state plans (covering both the private sector and state and local government employees) and five states and one territory (Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York, and the Virgin Islands) cover state and local government employees only. States with OSHA-approved job safety and health plans must set standards that are at least as effective as the equivalent Federal standard. Most, but not all of the state plan states, adopt standards identical to the Federal ones.

Federal OSHA Standards.  Standards are grouped into four major categories: general industry (29 CFR 1910); construction (29 CFR 1926); maritime (shipyards, marine terminals, longshoring—29 CFR 1915-19); and agriculture (29 CFR 1928). While some standards are specific to just one category, others apply across industries. Among the standards with similar requirements for all sectors of industry are those that address access to medical and exposure records, personal protective equipment, and hazard communication.

  • Access to medical and exposure records: This regulation provides a right of access to employees, their designated representatives, and OSHA to relevant medical records, including records related to that employee’s exposure to toxic substances.
  • Personal protective equipment: This standard, which is defined separately for each segment of industry except agriculture, requires employers to provide employees with personal equipment designed to protect them against certain hazards and to ensure that employees have been effectively trained on the use of the equipment. This equipment can range from protective helmets to prevent head injuries in construction and cargo handling work, to eye protection, hearing protection, hard-toed shoes, special goggles for welders, and gauntlets for iron workers. Employers must generally provide required personal protective equipment to their employees free of charge.
  • Hazard communication: This standard requires manufacturers and importers of hazardous materials to conduct hazard evaluations of the products they manufacture or import. If a product is found to be hazardous under the terms of the standard, the manufacturer or importer must so indicate on containers of the material, and the first shipment of the material to a new customer must include a safety data sheet (SDS). All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplace must have labels and SDSs for their exposed workers and train to handle the chemical appropriately. OSHA revised its hazard communication standard in 2012 to be consistent with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.

Employee Rights

The Act grants employees several important rights. Among them are the right to file a complaint with OSHA about safety and health conditions in their workplaces and, to the extent permitted by law, have their identities kept confidential from employers; contest the amount of time OSHA allows for correcting violations of standards; and participate in OSHA workplace inspections.

Private sector employees who exercise their rights under OSHA can be protected against employer reprisal, as described in Section 11(c) of the OSH Act. Employees must notify OSHA within 30 days of the time they learned of the alleged discriminatory action. OSHA will then investigate, and if it agrees that discrimination has occurred, OSHA will ask the employer to restore any lost benefits to the affected employee. If necessary, OSHA can initiate legal action against the employer. In such cases, the worker pays no legal fees. The OSHA-approved state plans have parallel employee rights provisions, including protections against employer reprisal. OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the anti-retaliation provisions under the OSH Act and other statutes.

Notices/Posters

Poster. All covered employers are required to display and keep displayed the OSHA “Job Safety and Health: It’s the Law” poster. Employers in states with an OSHA-approved state plan may be required to post a state version of the OSHA poster. There is a separate poster for Federal agencies. The OSHA poster must be displayed in a conspicuous place where employees can see it. Copies of the poster shall be at least 8 1/2 by 14 inches with 10 point type. This poster is also available in Spanish and other languages. Posting of the notice in languages other than English is not required, but OSHA encourages employers with workers that speak other languages to also display the other relevant versions of the poster.

Notices. Employees, former employees and their representatives have the right to review the OSHA Form 300, Log of Work-related Illnesses and Injuries, in its entirety. Employers are required to post the Summary of Work-related Injuries and Illnesses (Form300A) in a visible location so that employees are aware of the injuries and illnesses that occur in their workplace. Employers are required to post the Summary Form (300A) by February 1 of the year following the year covered by the form and keep it posted until April 30 of that year.

Recordkeeping

OSHA-approved state plan states must adopt occupational injury and illness recording requirements that are substantially identical to the Federal OSHA requirements. Since each state plan’s requirements may differ slightly, the Federal OSHA requirements are described below.

Records for employers with 10 or fewer employees. Employers with 10 or fewer employees at all times during the last calendar year do not need to keep OSHA injury and illness records unless OSHA or the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) informs them in writing that records must be kept. However, all employers covered by the OSH Act must report to OSHA any workplace incident that results in a fatality, an amputation, the loss of an eye, or the in-patient hospitalization of one or more employees.

Records for employers in certain industries. If an employer’s business is in an industry that is classified as low hazard, the employer does not need to keep records unless OSHA or the BLS asks them to do so in writing. The partial industry classification exemption applies to individual establishments. If a company has several establishments engaged in different classes of business activities, some of the company’s establishments may be required to keep records, while others may be exempt. Industries currently designated as low-hazard include:

  • Certain retail stores
  • Eating and drinking places
  • Most finance, insurance, and real estate industries
  • Certain service industries, such as personal and business services, medical and dental offices, and legal, educational, and membership organizations

Business establishments classified in agriculture, mining, utilities, construction, manufacturing, or wholesale trade are not eligible for the partial industry classification exemption.

All other employers. Employers are required to use the Form 300 Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses to classify work-related injuries and illnesses and to note the extent and severity of each case. When an incident occurs, the Log is used to record specific details about what happened and how it happened.

If the employer has more than one establishment or site, separate records for each physical location that is expected to remain in operation for one year or longer must be kept.

Employers are required to keep a separate Log (Form 300) and Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (Form 300A) for each physical location that is expected to be in operation for one year or longer. The Injury and Illness Incident Report (Form 301) is filled out when a recordable work-related injury or illness has occurred. Together with the Form 300 and Form 300A, these forms help the employer and OSHA develop a picture of the extent and severity of work-related incidents.

Employers must record work-related injuries and illnesses that result in:

  • Death
  • Days away from work
  • Restricted work activity or job transfer
  • Medical treatment beyond first aid
  • Loss of consciousness

Employers must record any significant work-related injuries and illnesses that are diagnosed by a physician or other licensed health care professional, such as any work-related case involving cancer, chronic irreversible disease, a fractured or cracked bone or a punctured eardrum.

Employers must record the following conditions when they are work-related:

  • Any needle-stick injury or cut from a sharp object that is contaminated with another person’s blood or other potentially infectious material
  • Any case requiring an employee to be medically removed under the requirements of an OSHA health standard
  • Work-related cases involving hearing loss under certain conditions
  • Tuberculosis infection as evidenced by a positive skin test or diagnosis by a physician or other licensed health care professional after exposure to a known case of active tuberculosis

Employers do not have to record certain injury and illness incidents such as a visit to a doctor solely for observation and counseling or those requiring first aid treatment only. For more information see the full list of Non-recordable Injury and Illness Incidents.

Reporting

OSHA-approved state plan states must adopt occupational injury and illness reporting requirements that are substantially identical to the Federal OSHA requirements. Since each state plan’s requirements may differ slightly, the Federal OSHA requirements are described below.

Employers must report to OSHA work-related fatalities within 8 hours of finding out about it.

For any in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or eye loss employers must report the incident to OSHA within 24 hours of learning about it.

Only fatalities occurring within 30 days of the work-related incident must be reported to OSHA. Further, for an inpatient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye, the incidents must be reported to OSHA only if they occur within 24 hours of the work-related incident.

Employers have three options(https://www.osha.gov/report.html) for reporting the event:

  • By telephone to the nearest OSHA Area Office during normal business hours.
  • By telephone to the 24-hour OSHA hotline (1-800-321-OSHA or 1-800-321-6742).
  • Report online on OSHA’s website.

Compliance Assistance Available

The Department of Labor provides employers, workers, and others with clear and easy-to-access information and assistance on how to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Among the many resources available are:

  • OSHA Publications: Provides fact sheets, booklets, and other publications sorted by topic, publication type, and language.
  • Compliance Assistance Quick Start: Provides introductory step-by-step instruction to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance assistance resources.
  • OSHA eTools: Provides links to e-tools and Expert Advisors
  • OSHA Safety and Health Topics Pages: Provide information on specific safety and health hazards, and specific hazard information on different industries. These pages provide information on hazard identification and control and applicable OSHA standards.
  • OSHA’s Help for Employers Page: Provides a portal to OSHA's compliance assistance resources.
  • OSHA Frequently Asked Questions: Highlights topics and specific questions that are often asked of OSHA.

Because states with OSHA-approved job safety and health programs adopt and enforce their own standards under state law, copies of these standards can be obtained from the individual states. Many are available through state Web sites, which are linked from OSHA's State Occupational Safety and Health Plans Web page.

Cooperative Programs. OSHA offers a number of opportunities for employers, employees, and organizations to work cooperatively with the Agency. OSHA’s major cooperative programs are the Voluntary Protections Program (VPP), the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), OSHA Challenge, the Alliance Program, and the OSHA Strategic Partnership Program (OSPP). For further information on OSHA’s cooperative programs, visit the Cooperative Programs section of OSHA’s Web site.

Voluntary Protection Programs: The Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) are aimed at extending worker protection beyond the minimum required by OSHA standards. The VPP is designed to:

  • Recognize the outstanding achievements of those who have successfully incorporated comprehensive safety and health programs into their total management systems;
  • Motivate others to achieve excellent safety and health results in the same outstanding way; and
  • Establish a relationship between employers, employees, and OSHA that is based on cooperation rather than coercion.

An employer may apply for VPP at the nearest OSHA regional office. OSHA reviews an employer's VPP application and visits the worksite to verify that the safety and health program described is in effect at the site. All participants must send their injury information annually to their OSHA regional offices. Sites participating in the VPP are not scheduled for programmed inspections. However, OSHA handles any employee complaints, serious accidents/catastrophes, or fatalities according to routine procedures.

The VPP is available in states under federal jurisdiction. Additionally, all OSHA-approved state plans that cover private-sector employees in the state operate similar programs. Interested companies in these states should contact the appropriate state agency for more information.

Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP): This program recognizes small employers who operate an exemplary safety and health management system. Employers who are accepted into SHARP are recognized as models for worksite safety and health. Upon receiving SHARP recognition, the worksite will be exempt from programmed inspections during the period that the SHARP certification is valid. To participate in SHARP, an employer must contact its state’s Consultation Program and request a free consultation visit that involves a complete hazard identification survey.

OSHA Challenge: This program provides opportunities for employers to work with OSHA and qualified volunteers (Challenge Administrators) to develop safety and health management systems (SHMS) on par with VPP and SHARP. OSHA Challenge breaks down SHMS implementation in three stages. For each stage, the participants identify actions, documentation, and outcomes. Unique aspects of OSHA Challenge include: no application prerequisites for participants except for a letter of commitment stating that they will follow the program and strive for safety and health excellence; no time constraints to complete the stages, which allows participants to work at their own level and pace; and the use of Challenge Administrators experienced in SHMS to assist participants, which limits the OSHA resources needed to manage the program.

Alliance Program: Through the Alliance Program, OSHA works with businesses, trade and professional organizations, unions, educational institutions, and other government agencies. Alliance Program participants work with OSHA to leverage resources and expertise to help develop compliance assistance tools, training opportunities, and other information to help employers and employees prevent on-the-job injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. OSHA’s Alliances with organizations in industries such as plastics, healthcare, maritime, chemical, construction, paper and telecommunications, among others, are working to address safety and health hazards with at-risk audiences, such as youth, immigrant workers, and small business.

Strategic Partnership Program: In this program, OSHA enters into an extended, voluntary, cooperative relationship with employers, associations, unions, and/or councils. Partnerships often cover multiple worksites, and in some instances, affect entire industries. Partner worksites may be very large, but most often they are small businesses averaging 50 or fewer employees. Strategic Partnerships are designed to encourage, assist, and recognize efforts to eliminate serious hazards and achieve a high level of worker safety and health. All Partnerships emphasize sustained efforts and continuing results beyond the typical three-year duration of the agreement.

Training and education: OSHA has more than 70 full-service field offices (called Area Offices) that offer a variety of informational services, such as publications, technical advice, audio-visual aids on workplace hazards, and lecturers for speaking engagements. Most of these field offices have an OSHA Compliance Assistance Specialist (CAS). CASs provide general information about OSHA standards and compliance assistance resources, and are available for seminars, workshops, and speaking events. CASs promote OSHA’s cooperative programs and also encourage employers to take advantage of OSHA’s training resources and the tools available on the OSHA Web site.

The OSHA Training Institute in Arlington Heights, Illinois, provides basic and advanced training and education in safety and health for federal and state compliance safety and health officers; state consultants; other federal agency personnel; and private sector employers, employees, and their representatives. Course topics include electrical hazards, machine guarding, ventilation, and ergonomics, among others. The OSHA Training Institute has partnered with other training and education institutes to conduct Training Institute courses. These Education Centers, which are located throughout the country, provide additional opportunities for the public to receive training on safety and health topics.

The OSHA Outreach Training Program provides training for workers and employers on the recognition, avoidance, abatement, and prevention of safety and health hazards in workplaces. The program also provides information regarding workers' rights, employer responsibilities, and how to file a complaint. This is a voluntary program and does not meet training requirements for any OSHA standards. Through this program, workers can attend 10-hour or 30-hour classes delivered by OSHA-authorized trainers. The 10-hour class is intended for entry level workers, while the 30-hour class is more appropriate for workers with some safety responsibility.

Consultation services: OSHA's On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential safety and occupational health advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs.

On-site OSHA consultation assistance includes an opening conference with the employer to explain the ground rules for consultation, a walk through the workplace to identify specific hazards and to examine those aspects of the employer's safety and health program that relate to the scope of the visit, and a closing conference. Later, the consultant sends a report of findings and recommendations to the employer. This process begins with the employer's request for consultation, which must include a commitment to correct any serious safety and health hazards identified. The consultant will not report possible violations of OSHA standards to OSHA enforcement staff unless the employer fails or refuses to eliminate or control worker exposure to any identified serious hazard or imminent danger. Should this occur, OSHA may investigate and begin enforcement action. The employer must also agree to allow the consultant to confer freely with employees during the on-site visit.

Additional information about consultation assistance, including a directory of OSHA funded consultation projects, can be found on OSHA's Consultation Program Web page.

Information sources: Information about state plans, VPPs, consultation programs, and inspections can be obtained from the nearest OSHA regional or area office. Area offices are listed in local telephone directories under the U.S. Department of Labor. Contact information for regional and area offices, as well as state plans and consultation programs can also be found on the OSHA Web site.

OSHA’s Office of Small Business Assistance administers OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program and serves as liaison and point of contact with the Agency for small businesses. OSHA offers many services designed to help small businesses and welcomes comments and suggestions from small business owners and their employees.

Relation to State, Local, and Other Federal Laws

The OSH Act covers all private sector working conditions that are not addressed by safety and health regulations of another Federal agency under other legislation. OSHA also has the authority to monitor the safety and health of Federal employees. Federal agency heads are responsible for the safety and health of Federal employees. The OSHA-approved state plan states extend their coverage to state and local government employees.

Finally, OSHA is also responsible for administering a number of whistleblower laws relating to safety and health as described in the Whistleblower Protection section of this Guide and OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Web page.

Penalties/Sanctions

Every establishment covered by the Act is subject to inspection by OSHA compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs). These occupational safety and health professionals possess the knowledge and experience required to conduct workplace inspections; they have been thoroughly trained in recognizing safety and health hazards and in enforcing OSHA’s Standards. In states with their own OSHA-approved state plan, pursuant to state law, state officials conduct inspections, issue citations for violations, and propose penalties in a manner that is at least as effective as the Federal program.

OSHA initiates inspections without advance notice based on the following priorities: imminent danger, catastrophes (fatalities or hospitalizations), worker complaints and referrals, targeted inspections (particular hazards, high injury rates), and follow-up inspections. Various OSHA publications and documents detail OSHA’s policies and procedures for inspections, including OSHA’s Field Operations Manual.

Types of violations that may be cited and the penalties that may be proposed:

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 requires OSHA to adjust its civil money penalties to account for inflation. This included a one-time adjustment covering the years since OSHA’s penalties were last adjusted and ongoing annual adjustments. The adjustments are not included in the dollar values listed below. The new penalty levels will be issued by July 1, 2016 and will take effect by August 1, 2016.

De Minimis violations: The OSH Act authorizes OSHA to treat certain violations, which have no direct or immediate relationship to safety and health, as de minimis, requiring no penalty or abatement. OSHA does not issue citations for de minimis violations.

Other than serious violation: A violation that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm. A proposed penalty of up to $7,000 for each violation is discretionary.

Serious violation: A violation where a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and where the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard. A penalty of up to $7,000 for each violation must be proposed.

Willful violation: A violation that the employer intentionally and knowingly commits. The employer either knows that what he or she is doing constitutes a violation, or is aware that a condition creates a hazard and has made no reasonable effort to eliminate it. The Act provides that an employer who willfully violates the Act may be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $70,000 but not less than $5,000 for each violation. Proposed penalties for other-than-serious and serious violations may be adjusted downward depending on the employer’s good faith (demonstrated efforts to comply with the Act through the implementation of an effective health and safety program), history of violations, and size of business. Proposed penalties for willful violations may be adjusted downward depending on the size of the business. Usually no credit is given for good faith.

If an employer is convicted of a willful violation of a standard that has resulted in the death of an employee, the offense is punishable by a court imposed fine or by imprisonment for up to six months, or both. A fine of up to $250,000 for an individual, or $500,000 for an organization [authorized under the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1984 (1984 OCCA), not the OSH Act], may be imposed for a criminal conviction.

Repeat violation: A violation of any standard, regulation, rule, or order where, upon re-inspection, a substantially similar violation is found. Repeat violations can bring fines of up to $70,000 for each such violation. To serve as the basis for a repeat citation, the original citation must be final; a citation under contest may not serve as the basis for a subsequent repeat citation.

Failure to abate violation: Failure to correct a prior violation may bring a civil penalty of up to $7,000 for each day the violation continues beyond the prescribed abatement date.

Citation and penalty procedures may differ somewhat in states with their own OSH programs.

Appeals process

The following outlines procedures for appealing OSHA citations and penalties.

Appeals by employees and employers: If a complaint from an employee prompted the inspection, the employee or authorized employee representative may request an informal review of any decision not to issue a citation.

Employees may not contest citations, amendments to citations, penalties, or lack of penalties. They may contest the time allowed in the citation for abatement of a hazardous condition. They also may contest an employer's Petition for Modification of Abatement (PMA), which requests an extension of the abatement period. Employees who wish to contest the PMA must do so within 10 working days of its posting or within 10 working days after an authorized employee representative has received a copy

.

Within 15 working days of the employer's receipt of the citation, the employer may submit a written objection to OSHA. If the PMA requests an abatement date that is two years or less from the issuance date of the citation, the Area Director has the authority to approve or object to the petition

.

Any PMA requesting an abatement date that is more than two years from the issuance date of the citation requires the approval of the Regional Administrator as well as the Area Director. If the PMA is approved, the Area Director shall notify the employer and the employee representatives by letter.

The Area Director or Regional Administrator (as appropriate), after consultation with the Regional Solicitor’s Office, shall object to a PMA where the evidence supports non-approval (e.g., employer has taken no meaningful abatement action at all or has otherwise exhibited bad faith). In such cases, all relevant documentation shall be sent to the Review Commission in accordance with §1903.14a(d). Both the employer and the employee representatives shall be notified of this action by letter, with return receipt requested. Letters notifying the employer or employee representative of the objection shall be mailed on the same date that the agency objection to the PMA is sent to the Review Commission

.

Employees may request an informal conference with OSHA to discuss any issues raised by an inspection, citation, notice of proposed penalty, or the employer's notice of intention to contest.

Informal conferences: When issued a citation or notice of a proposed penalty, an employer may request an informal conference with OSHA's Area Director to discuss the case. Employee representatives may be invited to attend the meeting. To avoid prolonged legal disputes, the Area Director is authorized to enter into settlement agreements that may revise citations and penalties.

Notice of contest: If the employer decides to contest the citation, the time set for abatement or the proposed penalty, he or she has 15 working days from the time the citation and proposed penalty are received in which to notify the OSHA Area Director in writing. An orally expressed disagreement will not suffice. This written notification is called a "Notice of Contest." There is no specific format for the Notice of Contest. However, it must clearly identify the employer's basis for contesting the citation, notice of proposed penalty, abatement period, or notification of failure to correct violations. To better identify the scope of the contest, it also should identify the inspection number and citation number(s) being contested.

A copy of the Notice of Contest must be given to the employees' authorized representative. If any affected employees are unrepresented by a recognized bargaining agent, a copy of the notice must be posted in a prominent location in the workplace, or else served personally upon each unrepresented employee.

Appeal review procedure: If the written Notice of Contest has been filed within 15 working days, the OSHA Area Director forwards the case to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC). The Commission is an independent agency not associated with OSHA or the Department of Labor. The Commission assigns the case to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ may disallow the contest if it is found to be legally invalid, or a hearing may be scheduled for a public place near the employer's workplace. The employer and the employees have the right to participate in the hearing; the OSHRC does not require that they be represented by attorneys.

Once the ALJ has ruled, any party to the case may request a further review by OSHRC. Also, any of the three OSHRC commissioners may individually move to bring a case before the Commission for review. Commission rulings may be appealed to the U.S. Courts of Appeals.

Appeals in state plan states: States with their own occupational safety and health programs have their own systems for review and appeal of citations, penalties, and abatement periods. The procedures are generally similar to Federal OSHA's, but a state review board or equivalent authority hears cases.

DOL Contacts

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (http://www.osha.gov)
Contact OSHA(http://www.osha.gov/html/Feed_Back.html)
Tel.: 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742); TTY: 1-877-889-5627


Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)

(38 USC §§4301 through 4334)

Who is Covered

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is administered by the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS). USERRA applies to persons who perform duty, voluntarily or involuntarily, in the "uniformed services," which include the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Public Health Service commissioned corps, as well as the reserve components of each of these services. Federal training or service in the Army National Guard and Air National Guard also gives rise to rights under USERRA. In addition, under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Response Act of 2002, certain disaster response work (and authorized training for such work) is considered "service in the uniformed services."

Uniformed service includes active duty, active duty for training, inactive duty training (such as drills), initial active duty training, and funeral honors duty performed by National Guard and reserve members, as well as the period for which a person is absent from a position of employment for the purpose of an examination to determine fitness to perform any such duty.

USERRA covers nearly all employees, including part-time and probationary employees. USERRA applies to virtually all U.S. employers, regardless of size.

Basic Provisions/Requirements

USERRA prohibits employment discrimination against a person on the basis of past military service, current military obligations, or intent to serve. An employer must not deny initial employment, reemployment, retention in employment, promotion, or any benefit of employment to a person on the basis of a past, present, or future service obligation. In addition, an employer must not retaliate against a person because of an action taken to enforce or exercise any USERRA right or for assisting in an USERRA investigation.

The pre-service employer must reemploy servicemembers returning from a period of service in the uniformed services if those servicemembers meet five criteria:

  • The person must have been absent from a civilian job on account of service in the uniformed services;
  • The person must have given advance notice to the employer that he or she was leaving the job for service in the uniformed services, unless such notice was precluded by military necessity or otherwise impossible or unreasonable;
  • The cumulative period of military service with that employer must not have exceeded five years;
  • The person must not have been released from service under dishonorable or other punitive conditions; and
  • The person must have reported back to the civilian job in a timely manner or have submitted a timely application for reemployment, unless timely reporting back or application was impossible or unreasonable.

USERRA establishes a five-year cumulative total of military service with a single employer, with certain exceptions allowed for situations such as call-ups during emergencies, reserve drills, and annually scheduled active duty for training. USERRA also allows an employee to complete an initial period of active duty that exceeds five years.

Employers are required to provide to persons entitled to the rights and benefits under USERRA a notice of the rights, benefits, and obligations of such persons and such employers under USERRA.

Employee Rights

USERRA provides that returning servicemembers are to be reemployed in the job that they would have attained had they not been absent for military service, (the "escalator" principle), with the same seniority, status and pay, as well as other rights and benefits determined by seniority. USERRA also requires that reasonable efforts (such as training or retraining) be made to enable returning servicemembers to qualify for reemployment. If the servicemember cannot qualify for the "escalator" position, he or she must be reemployed, if qualified, in any other position that is the nearest approximation to the escalator position and then to the pre-service position. USERRA also provides that while an individual is performing military service, he or she is deemed to be on a furlough or leave of absence and is entitled to the non-seniority rights and benefits accorded other similarly-situated individuals on non-military leaves of absence. The time limits for returning to work are as follows:

  • Less than 31 days service: By the beginning of the first regularly scheduled work period after the end of the calendar day of duty, plus time required to return home safely and an eight hour rest period. If this is impossible or unreasonable, then as soon as possible.
  • 31 to 180 days: The employee must apply for reemployment no later than 14 days after completion of military service. If this is impossible or unreasonable through no fault of the employee, then as soon as possible.
  • 181 days or more: The employee must apply for reemployment no later than 90 days after completion of military service.
  • Service-connected injury or illness: Reporting or application deadlines are extended for up to two years for persons who are hospitalized or convalescing.

Health and pension plan coverage for servicemembers is also addressed by USERRA. Individuals performing military duty of more than 30 days may elect to continue employer sponsored health care for up to 24 months; however, they may be required to pay up to 102 percent of the full premium. For military service of less than 31 days, health care coverage is provided as if the servicemember had remained employed. USERRA pension protections apply to defined benefit plans and defined contribution plans as well as plans provided under Federal or state laws governing pension benefits for government employees. For purposes of pension plan participation, vesting, and accrual of benefits, USERRA treats military service as continuous service with the employer.

Notices/Posters

Employers are required to provide to persons covered by USERRA a notice of the rights, benefits, and obligations of the employees and employers under USERRA.  To do this, employers may post the notice entitled “Your Rights Under USERRA” where employer notices are customarily placed, mail it, or by distributing it via electronic mail. There is no size requirement for the poster version of the notice.

Recordkeeping

There are no required records under USERRA.

Reporting

There are no required reports under USERRA.

Compliance Assistance Available

Compliance assistance information is available on the VETS Web site(http://www.dol.gov/vets/). Specific compliance assistance materials available include: the Department of Labor USERRA regulations (20 CFR Part 1002)(http://www.dol.gov/vets/regs/fedreg/final/2005023961.htm), which implement the law for non-Federal employers; a fact sheet (http://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/userra_fs.htm) about USERRA; and the notice/poster(http://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/poster.htm) to employees of their rights, benefits, and obligations under USERRA. Copies of VETS publications, or answers to questions about USERRA, may also be obtained from a local VETS office(http://www.dol.gov/vets/aboutvets/nationaloffice.htm).

Another compliance assistance resource, the elaws Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) Advisor(/elaws/userra.htm), helps veterans understand employee eligibility and job entitlements, employer obligations, benefits, and remedies under the Act.

The Department of Labor provides employers, workers, and others with clear and easy-to-access information and assistance on how to comply with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. Among the many resources are Frequently Asked Questions for Reservists being Called to Active Duty(http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/faqs/faq_911_2.html), explanatory brochures, fact sheets, and regulatory and interpretive materials are available.

Relation to State, Local, and Other Federal Laws

USERRA does not preempt state laws providing greater or additional rights or benefits, but it does preempt state laws providing lesser rights or benefits or imposing additional eligibility criteria.

Penalties/Sanctions

A court may order an employer to compensate a prevailing claimant for lost wages or benefits. USERRA allows for liquidated damages for "willful" violations.

DOL Contacts

Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS)(http://www.dol.gov/vets/)
E-mail: contact-vets@dol.gov
Tel: 1-866-4USADOL (1-866-487-2365) or 1-202-693-4770; TTY: 1-877-889-5627


Whistleblower Protection Provisions

Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSH Act), 29 USC § 660(c)

Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), 49 USC § 31105

Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), 15 USC § 2651

International Safe Container Act (ISCA), 46 USC § 80507

Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 (ERA), 42 USC § 5851

Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 USC § 7622

Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), 42 USC § 300j-9(i)

Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA), 33 USC § 1367

Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), 15 USC § 2622

Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA), 42 USC § 6971

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 USC § 9610

Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act (AIR21), 49 USC § 42121

Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOA), 18 USC § 1514A

Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (PSIA), 49 USC § 60129

National Transit Systems Security Act (NTSSA)

Federal Rail Safety Act

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) administers the employee protection (or "whistleblower") provisions of sixteen statutes.

Who is Covered

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) administers the employee “whistleblower” protection provisions of twenty-two statutes.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), employees may file complaints with OSHA if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for exercising any right afforded by the OSH act, such as complaining to the employer union, OSHA, or any other government agency about workplace safety or health hazards; or for participating in OSHA inspection conferences, hearings, or other OSHA-related activities.

Under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), employees and certain independent contractors in the trucking industry may file complaints with OSHA if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for reporting certain commercial motor vehicle (CMV) safety, health, or security concerns; for refusing to drive under dangerous circumstances or in violation of CMV safety, health, or security rules; for accurately reporting their hours on duty; for cooperating with safety or security investigations conducted by certain Federal agencies; or for furnishing information to a government agency relating to any accident or incident resulting in injury or death or damage to property in connection with CMV transportation.

Under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), employees may file complaints with OSHA if they believe they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for reporting alleged violations of environmental laws relating to asbestos in elementary and secondary school systems.

Under the International Safe Container Act (ISCA), employees may file complaints with OSHA if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for reporting allegations of an unsafe cargo container.

Under the Energy Reorganization Act (ERA), certain employees in the nuclear power and nuclear medicine industries may file complaints with OSHA if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for reporting alleged violations of nuclear safety laws or regulations.

Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA), Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA), Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), employees may file complaints with OSHA if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for reporting alleged violations of certain environmental laws or regulations.

Under the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21), employees of air carriers and their contractors and subcontractors may file complaints with OSHA if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for reporting alleged violations of Federal aviation safety laws or regulations.

Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), as amended by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, employees of certain publicly traded companies, companies with certain reporting requirements with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and their contractors, subcontractors, and agents may file complaints with OSHA if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for reporting alleged violations of the Federal mail, wire, bank, or securities fraud statutes, any rule or regulation of the SEC, or any other provision of Federal law relating to fraud against shareholders.

Under the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (PSIA), employees of owners or operators of pipeline facilities and their contractors and subcontractors may file complaints with OSHA if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for reporting alleged violations of Federal law regarding pipeline safety or for refusing to violate such provisions.

Under the Federal Rail Safety Act (FRSA), employees of railroad carriers and their contractors and subcontractors may file complaints with OSHA if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for reporting an alleged violation of any Federal law, rule, or regulation relating to railroad safety or security, or gross fraud, waste, or abuse of Federal grants or other public funds intended to be used for railroad safety or security; reporting hazardous safety or security conditions; refusing to violate or assist in the violation of any Federal law, rule, or regulation relating to railroad safety or security; refusing to work when confronted by a hazardous safety or security condition related to the performance of the employee’s duties (under imminent danger circumstances); or for requesting prompt medical or first aid treatment for employment-related injuries.

Under the National Transit Systems Security Act (NTSSA), employees of public transportation agencies and their contractors and subcontractors may file complaints with OSHA if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for reporting an alleged violation of any Federal law, rule, or regulation relating to public transportation safety or security, or fraud, waste, or abuse of Federal grants or other public funds intended to be used for public transportation safety or security; reporting hazardous safety or security conditions; refusing to violate or assist in the violation of any Federal law, rule, or regulation relating to public transportation safety or security; or refusing to work when confronted by a hazardous safety or security condition related to the performance of the employee’s duties (under imminent danger circumstances).

Under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), employees of motor vehicle manufacturers, part suppliers, and dealerships may file complaints with OSHA if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for providing information to the employer or the U.S. Department of Transportation about motor vehicle defects, noncompliance, or violations of the notification or reporting requirements enforced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), or for engaging in related protected activities as set forth in the provision.

Under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), employees of manufacturers, private labelers, distributors, and retailers may file complaints with OSHA if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for reporting alleged violations of any law or regulation within the jurisdiction of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to the employer, the Federal government, or a state attorney general; or for refusing to perform assigned tasks that the employee reasonably believes would violate CPSC requirements.

Under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), employees of food manufacturers, distributors, packers, and transporters may file complaints with OSHA if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for reporting a violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or a regulation promulgated under the Act. Employees are also protected from retaliation for refusing to participate in a practice that violates the Act.

Under the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA), employees performing tasks related to consumer financial products or services may file complaints with OSHA if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for reporting reasonably perceived violations of any provision of title X of the Dodd-Frank Act or any other provision of law that is subject to the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, or any rule, order, standard, or prohibition prescribed by the Bureau.

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), employees may file complaints with OSHA if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for reporting violations of any provision of title I of the ACA, including but not limited to discrimination based on an individual’s receipt of health insurance subsidies, the denial of coverage based on a preexisting condition, or an insurer’s failure to rebate a portion of an excess premium.

Under the Seaman’s Protection Act (SPA), as amended by the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, seamen may file complaints with OSHA if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for reporting to the Coast Guard or another federal agency a violation of a maritime safety law or regulation. Among other things, the Act also protects seamen from retaliation for refusing to work when they reasonably believe an assigned task would result in serious injury or impairment of health to themselves, other seamen, or the public.

Other Department of Labor agencies, such as the Wage and Hour Division, the Employee Benefits Security Administration, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration, enforce the anti-retaliation provisions of numerous other statutes and Executive Orders. Information concerning many of these additional anti-retaliation protections is available in other sections of the Guide.

Basic Provisions/Requirements

Generally, the employee protection provisions listed above prohibit covered employers from discharging or otherwise discriminating against any employee because the employee engaged in certain activities protected by law.

The protected activities typically include:

  • Initiating a proceeding under, or for the enforcement of, any of these statutes, or causing such a proceeding to be initiated;
  • Testifying in any such proceeding;
  • Assisting or participating in any such proceeding or in any other action to carry out the purposes of these statutes; or
  • Complaining about a violation.

Many of the statutes specifically protect an employee's internal complaints to his or her employer, and it is the Department of Labor's position, as set forth in regulations, that employees who express safety or quality assurance concerns internally to their employers are protected under all of the whistleblower statutes administered by OSHA.

Employee Rights

Any employee who believes that he or she has been discriminated or retaliated against in violation of any of the statutes listed above may file a complaint with OSHA. Complaints must be filed within 30 days after the occurrence of the alleged violation under the OSH Act, CAA, CERCLA, SWDA, FWPCA, SDWA, and TSCA; within 60 days under ISCA; within 90 days under AIR21 and AHERA; and within 180 days under ACA, FSMA, SPA, MAP-21, SOX, STAA, ERA, PSIA, FRSA, NTSSA, CFPA and CPSIA.

If the Secretary of Labor has not issued a final decision within 180 days of the filing of a SOX complaint, one year of the filing of an ERA complaint, or 210 days of a ACA, SPA, FSMA, MAP-21, STAA, FRSA, NTSSA, CFPA or CPSIA complaint, and there is no showing that there has been delay due to the bad faith of the employee, the employee may bring an action at law or equity in district court under those statutes.

Notices/Posters

There are no recordkeeping, reporting, poster, or other notice requirements for employers under the Whistleblower Protection provisions administered and enforced by OSHA.

Compliance Assistance Available

The Department of Labor provides employers, workers, and others with clear and easy-to-access information and assistance on how to comply with the Whistleblower Protection provisions, including OSHA’s Whistleblower Program Web site.

Relation to State, Local, and Other Federal Laws

The Supreme Court has held that the employee protection provisions of the ERA do not preempt existing state statutes and common law claims. The other statutes listed above should be consulted separately to determine whether or not their employee protection provisions are supplementary to protection provided by state laws.

Penalties/Sanctions

Upon receipt of a timely complaint, OSHA notifies the employer and, if conciliation fails, conducts an investigation. Where OSHA finds that complaints filed under the OSH Act, AHERA, and ISCA have merit, they are referred to the Solicitor's Office for legal action. Complaints under these three statutes found not to have merit will be dismissed. Where OSHA finds a violation after investigating complaints under the other statutes listed above, it will issue a determination letter requiring the employer to pay back wages, reinstate the employee, reimburse the employee for attorney and expert witness fees, and take other steps to provide necessary relief. Complaints found not to have merit will be dismissed.

Parties who object to OSHA's determinations under the other statutes listed above (except for the OSH Act, AHERA, and ISCA) may request a hearing before the Department of Labor's Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ)(http://www.oalj.dol.gov). Administrative Law Judges' decisions are reviewed by the Department of Labor's Administrative Review Board(http://www.dol.gov/arb), which the Secretary of Labor has designated to issue final agency decisions.

Under STAA, if OSHA finds in favor of the employee, litigation ordinarily is conducted by the Solicitor's Office, but sometimes by the private party. Under the other statutes, litigation generally is conducted by the private parties themselves. Employers and employees may seek judicial review of an adverse Administrative Review Board decision.

Under the AIR21, SOX, PSIA, FRSA, NTSSA, CPSIA, ACA, CFPA, FSMA, and MAP-21, employees who file complaints frivolously or in bad faith may be liable for attorney's fees up to $1,000.

DOL Contacts

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (http://www.osha.gov)
Contact OSHA(http://www.osha.gov/html/Feed_Back.html)
Tel.: 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742); TTY: 1-877-889-5627