Whistleblower Protection from Workplace Safety Retaliation

Whistleblower protections from retaliation for workers who raise workplace safety and health concerns.

Employees have a right to a safe workplace; to raise safety and health concerns; to report work related injuries and illnesses; and to receive information and training on job hazards.

Under 454 CMR 25.07, the Department of Labor Standards’ Workplace Safety and Health Program protects employees exercising their workplace safety and health rights from retaliation by public sector employers.

The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) continues to provide Whistleblower protections to private sector and federal employees.

What information should be in the complaint?

You may email DLS a letter or download and fill out the Whistleblower Paper Complaint Form or submit a Online Whistleblower Online Complaint Form. For instructions, visit: Public-Sector Workplace Whistleblower Complaint Form instructions.

Please provide:

  • Your name, phone, and email contact information.
  • Name and address of your employer, including a contact person.
  • The nature of the protected safety and health activities in which you engaged.
  • How the employer knew about these activities.
  • How you believe the employer may have retaliated against you.
  • the specific relief you are seeking. (Such as: back pay, front pay, job reinstatement, cleansing of personnel record, etc.)

Complaints must be submitted within 30 days of the adverse action taken by the employer against the employee.

Public-Sector employees may file a retaliation complaint in the following ways:

Private-Sector employees may file a retaliation complaint online:

What happens after I file a complaint?

After you file your retaliation complaint with WSHP, you will receive an email confirming receipt of your complaint. The complaint will be assigned to a WSHP investigator who is a neutral fact-finder who does not represent either party. The investigator will interview you to determine if the allegations in the complaint meet the conditions required to merit the need for an investigation. If an investigation is conducted, WSHP will provide the employer with your complaint, and any supporting materials provided, and ask for the employer to provide a written response. The employee will have the opportunity to file a rebuttal to the employer’s statement. Once the documents have been collected, WSHP will make a determination as to the case. Whistleblower investigations vary in length of time. At the conclusion of the investigation, the WSHP investigator will issue a findings letter to both parties, which will include information about remedies, if applicable. The employee will be responsible for any attorney or other fees incurred as part of the case.

A successful Retaliation Complaint will be able to show a connection between the adverse action taken by the employer and the employee’s safety and health activities. An unsuccessful Retaliation Complaint occurs when the employer is able to show that the adverse action was due to other reasons that were not related to safety and health.

Things to consider

For a Whistleblower case to be successful, five elements must be present:

  1. Deadline:  The complaint must be filed within 30 days of the retaliation.
  2. Protected Activity: The employee engaged in a protected activity, such as filing a complaint, reporting hazards to management, providing workplace safety information to DLS or OSHA, or reporting a work-related injury or illness.
  3. Knowledge by Employer: A person involved in the decision to take an adverse action had knowledge, or suspicion, of protected activity by the employee.
  4. Adverse Action: Adverse action was taken against the employee, such as discharge, demotion, suspension, discipline, or harassment.
  5. Connection: There must be reasonable cause to believe that the protected activity caused the adverse action, at least in part.

Other resources

If you feel you have been treated unfairly based on age, race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity, contact the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination at mcad@mass.gov and (617) 994-6171.

Wage and Hour Complaints
If you believe that your employer did not follow wage and hour, prevailing wage, child labor or public bidding laws, contact the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division at (617) 727-3465 or mass.gov/how-to/file-a-workplace-complaint.

Federal Whistleblower
The federal whistleblower program offers assistance in additional subjects, such as environmental protection, AHERA, transportation and financial fraud. Contact whistleblowers.gov.

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