How to Report an Employer to the Department of Labor
Whether you work for a large corporation, the government, or a local business, there are many labor laws meant to protect you and the public at large. But since not all employers follow these laws perfectly, lawmakers created a way for employees to blow the whistle on, or report, these violations through the Department of Labor. And because whistleblowers often face retaliation for their actions, legislators also passed whistleblower protection laws that forbid such retaliation. Read on to learn more about how to report an employer to the Department of Labor and about the laws that can protect you as a whistleblower.
What Is a Whistleblower?
Whistleblowers are individuals who help expose – or refuse to participate in – unethical or illegal activity within their company or government. In the labor context, this involves issues of workplace safety and health, employee benefits, veteran employment, wages and hours, workers’ compensation, agricultural work, and much more. Throughout the years, whistleblowers have helped expose single instances of wrongdoing as well as rampant fraud and abuse.
Reporting an Employer to the Department of Labor
Maybe you’ve witnessed racial discrimination, toxic dumping, or dangerous working conditions. Or maybe you’ve been denied compensation or benefits to which you’re entitled. Whatever the case may be, the Department of Labor seeks to improve working conditions and assure worker’s rights, benefits, and welfare.
However, reporting a violation of the labor laws is not always so simple. For one thing, you need to know which agency within the department covers your issue. For example, the Wage and Hour Division handles many issues including family and medical leave, compensation, minimum wage, agricultural workers, and employees contracting with the federal government. Whereas, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) covers issues concerning working conditions. There are many agencies and programs within the Department of Labor, each focused on separate but related areas. The particulars of your complaint will determine which one applies to you.
Key Points for Filing a Report with the Department of Labor
Although the exact process for filing a complaint will vary depending on the law and agency that applies to your situation, the following are key points to consider as you prepare to blow the whistle:
- Consider whether this is an issue that can be resolved internally within the company. Employers can’t fix problems they don’t know about, and some problems are caused unintentionally.
- Keep detailed documentation about the problem, complaints you make, and how those complaints are received by management and coworkers.
- Know which laws and agencies cover your issue. As noted above, different agencies within the Department of Labor handle different complaints.
- Contact the appropriate agency or division to learn whether you must file with a state agency before reporting to the Department of Labor.
- File your complaint within the timeframe required by the agency or division. If you wait too long, you could lose the right to have your issues addressed through the Department of Labor.
How to Report Your Employer to the Department of Labor and Keep Your Job
While some employers may welcome the chance to weed out wrongdoing within their company, others are not so thankful for the exposure. Despite the crucial role whistleblowers play in our society, they often face retaliation for their actions. As a whistleblower, you may encounter many different types of workplace retaliation, including simple harassment, negative performance reviews, pay cuts, transfers, and even the loss of your job.
Thankfully, many of the laws that encourage whistleblowing also contain anti-retaliation provisions which prohibit this type of conduct. OSHA is the agency within the Department of Labor that handles whistleblower retaliation claims by enforcing the retaliation provisions of 22 different federal laws. However, it’s important to be aware of the applicable time limits for filing a retaliation claim – some have to be filed within 30 days of the alleged retaliation.
Whistleblowing Can Be a Lonely Game: Get Help with Your Report
There’s a reason so many laws exist to protect workers – they often lack the resources and bargaining power to effectively protect themselves from retaliation by their employers. The laws and agencies under the Department of Labor work to close that gap by holding employers accountable and helping workers rectify their problems. However, collecting evidence, knowing which laws and agencies apply to your situation, and filing a complaint in time can seem daunting. Let a local whistleblower attorney advise you on the particulars and show you how to report your employer to the Department of Labor.
Contact a qualified whistleblower law attorney to make sure your rights are protected.