Under ideal circumstances, employers and workers in New Jersey cooperate to maintain safe working environments. Because workers are often the first people to notice dangerous conditions, the law recognizes that they need protection when reporting problems.
If a hazard does not appear to present an immediate danger, a worker should inform the employer in writing about the problem. If the employer does not take action to address the safety issue, then the worker could send a formal complaint to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration or its state-level equivalent. The law prohibits an employer from punishing a worker for informing authorities. Forms of retaliation such as job termination, demotion or pay cuts could enable a worker to complain to OSHA about mistreatment. If the agency confirms the retaliation, then it could order the employer to restore the person’s employment and pay for lost wages.
Under some situations, the hazards are so serious that a worker might feel that they pose an immediate threat of injury or death. In addition to informing OSHA, the worker might be able to refuse to work if there is no reasonable alternative for avoiding injury or death. A worker might also need to halt activities if there is no time to inform safety inspectors or the employer will not fix the safety problem.
Unsafe working conditions might place a person in the position of defying an employer. However, legal counsel could help a worker who must confront a large organization about safety hazards. To protect a job or pursue workers’ compensation benefits, an attorney familiar with workplace accidents could strive to protect the person’s rights. An attorney could evaluate the evidence to see if the person should file a lawsuit or prepare a workers’ compensation claim.