Study: Rules to protect workers from retaliation too weak

"American workers who report health and safety risks need better protections against employer retaliation," Katherine McFate, the group’s president and chief executive, said in a statement on Wednesday. "Federal workplace health and safety laws are weak and outdated and leave workers who experience retaliation without adequate remedy."

The report claims that worker safety rules are out of date and make it too hard for workers to feel comfortable telling the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) when their jobs are unsafe.

It says that workers are not given enough time to file a retaliation complaint with OSHA, that investigations take too long and that any retaliation is too difficult to prove.

Critics of OSHA claim that the agency can be too aggressive in going after businesses when it suspects that regulations have been violated. 

The Center for Effective Government argues for new legislation to protect workers, but notes that, with "current gridlock in Congress," state legislatures may be best primed to pass new laws protecting workers who report unsafe conditions at their jobs.

State lawmakers, they add, should work to give workers the time and space to file retaliation complaints and do prompt investigations.

"Adding these protections to state law will reduce the fear of retaliation and encourage workers to come forward to report health and safety hazards," said Ronald White, the organization’s director of regulatory policy.