All non-federal employees in California have the right to a safe and healthy working environment under the California Occupational Safety and Health Act (Cal/OSHA). (Federal employees are covered by the Federal OSHA). This law guarantees your right to a safe and healthy workplace and requires that employers take responsibility for ensuring your safety at work.2. What are my specific workplace health and safety rights?
Your employer is required to take steps to ensure your safety and health, and to provide you with enough training and protection to do your job safely. Under the law, your rights include:
Your employer may not retaliate against you (e.g., demote or fire you) for your formal or informal complaints about workplace safety or health. You have 6 months from the date of retaliation to file a complaint with the state Labor Commissioner. (Federal employees only have 30 days to file a complaint with Federal Dept. of Labor).3. Do I have the right to refuse to do unsafe work?
The California Labor Code (Section 6311) allows you to refuse to perform unsafe work as long as it is hazardous enough that any reasonable person would think his/her health or safety would be in danger by doing the work. The following are some examples of work that would likely create a risk of serious injury:
Before you refuse to perform unsafe work, however, make sure you inform your supervisor about the unsafe condition, and give the company a chance to correct it. If the company does not correct the unsafe condition, and you decide to refuse the work, make sure that you inform your supervisor, preferably in writing or in front of others, exactly why you are refusing to do the work, and that you will return to work as soon as the condition is fixed. Finally, you should contact Cal/OSHA to file a complaint against your employer.4. What information must my employer supply to me about my health and safety rights?
Your employer has to provide information on safety and health hazards in the workplace, and let you know how to protect yourself. At a minimum, each employer has to provide:
Yes. Each employer must implement an “injury and illness prevention program” that includes training, ways to correct safety and health problems, and notification to employees about hazards. Your employer has to keep safety and health records and records of any hazardous conditions monitored by your employer. You have the right to see those records, as well as your own medical records. An employer with 11 or more employees also must post the number of job-related injuries and illnesses during the previous year. You also have the right to see the accident logs for the past 5 years.6. What can I do if my workplace is unsafe or unhealthy?
It does not matter who was at fault for you injury. Your eligibility for workers’ compensation is not dependent upon how long you have held the job, how old you are, if you are employed as a temporary or part-time worker, or if you are a citizen.
If your employer tells you that you are not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits or refuses to give you a claim form, contact the State Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Worker’s Compensation, Information & Assistance Bureau. The number of your local Workers’ Compensation Information & Assistance Bureau can be found in the front of the phone book under “State Government Offices.”
Because workers’ compensation is designed to protect you, you will be eligible to receive benefits even if you do not have a work permit or are working in an occupation that is prohibited by child labor laws, such as roofing. In fact, your workers’ compensation benefits may be increased by 50% if you are under 16 years old and your employer has not complied with applicable child labor laws (such as employing you in a job that is prohibited to someone your age).9. Who pays for my medical treatment?
Your on-the-job-injury medical bills are paid by your employer. To receive benefits, obtain a workers’ compensation claim form from your employer and ask for information about how to file it with your employer’s insurance company. The doctor who is treating you should bill your employer’s insurance company.
If your employer refuses to pay and you do not have medical insurance, you can:
It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for having an injury or for requesting benefits. Your employer can be fined up to $10,000 for retaliating against you. Retaliation includes firing, threatening to fire, harassing, intimidating, or discriminating against you. If this happens, consult a workers’ compensation attorney. You have one year from when you were retaliated against to file a claim.11. Am I protected if I complain about workplace health and safety?
Yes. You may not be fired, demoted, transferred to a less desirable job or shift, or threatened or harassed in any way because you complained about a health and safety problem. If you believe that your employer has taken any adverse action against you for asserting a health and safety right or complaint, you should file a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner within 6 months (or 30 days for federal employees filing with the Department of Labor) of the retaliation.12. Where can I get more information?
State Employees: You can call the California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health; the San Francisco office is at (415) 557-1677 (24 hours), or you can find a local number in the state government pages of your phone book.
Federal Government Employees: If you are a federal government employee, you can call the federal office of Occupational Safety and Health at (800) 475-4020 with questions.