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Your right to refuse to work under unsafe conditions

Some jobs are just inherently more dangerous than others — but nobody should be expected to put themselves in unreasonably unsafe conditions for a paycheck.

If you find yourself being asked to disregard safety rules and take on a task that you know is too dangerous, it’s important to understand how to handle the situation. Here’s what you need to know:

1. You may have the legal right to refuse to continue working

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to keep the workplace free of conditions that could pose a significant danger to employees. If a situation arises where an employer is demanding that employees perform a dangerous job, the employees can refuse when:

  • They have a reasonable belief that the conditions of the job pose an imminent threat of physical harm or even death.
  • There is no time to report the condition to OSHA or any other appropriate agency for intervention.
  • Their employer either cannot or will not amend the conditions to make them safer.
  • There is no reasonable, viable alternative for the workers to use to get the job done.

If you find yourself in such a situation, it’s important to tell your employer why you are refusing to work and then stay put. Do not simply walk off the job. Wait to see if you are reassigned to a different task or are sent home. That helps protect you from allegations that you simply quit the job.

2. If you’re retaliated against for refusing to work, you may have the ability to sue your employer

If you are demoted, given a less favorable job, transferred somewhere inconvenient or discharged from work entirely, you may have the ability to press a claim against your employer. Unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon for employers to place their profits ahead of employee safety, so wrongful discharges are a common retaliation.

If you were terminated after refusing to work due to unsafe job conditions, find out more about your legal rights today.

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