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Can you blow the whistle on safety hazards?

Under the terms of the Consumer Product Safety Act, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has jurisdiction over approximately 15,000 kinds of consumer products for schools, homes and recreation.

If you work in the field of consumer products and report possible product safety violations to either your employer or a government agency, you are protected legally from retaliation via termination.

You can file a whistleblower's complaint with whistleblowers.gov. Other complaints can be filed verbally or in writing, sent via the post office or by email, faxed or hand-delivered. When workers can't file complaints in English, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration accepts them in any language.

After the investigation is completed, if evidence supports claims of retaliation, a settlement will be attempted. If negotiations fail, OSHA then issues a preliminary order to mandate appropriate relief in order to make you whole. The relief usually includes:

-- Reinstatement with all the benefits and seniority that you had.

-- Repaying back wages with interest.

-- Compensatory damages that include special damages compensation, attorney's and expert witness fees.

The agency's findings and its preliminary order will be the final order of the Labor Secretary, unless an objection is made within 30 days.

This is important, because employees are often the harbingers of safety hazards, being uniquely poised in the industry to have a bird's eye view of potential troubles with a product from a safety standpoint. An attorney who is familiar with product liability laws in your state may be a good source of information when you are considering blowing the whistle on some shoddy business practices or safety matters.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "Whistleblower Protection for Consumer Product Industry Workers," accessed June 03, 2016

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