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Time limits on retaliation complaints

Imagine this: you notice a workplace safety and health issue. You then engage in a protected activity -- by reporting the problem -- to keep yourself and others from harm. Maybe you even report the issue to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. You were just trying to do the right thing, but your employer suddenly retaliates against you. Maybe your hours get cut or you're given an unfavorable position within the company. Maybe you're even fired.

You know that you have some legal protections as a whistleblower, and you want to stand up for your rights -- which is good. However, you need to remember that you have to act in a timely manner.

How long do you have to file your complaint about retaliation for "whistleblower" activities? It depends on which law protects your rights as a whistleblower in the first place. Below are a few examples of how long you may have to file a complaint about retaliation:

  • The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act: You get 90 days.
  • The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act: You get 180 days.
  • The Clean Air Act: You get 30 days.
  • The Safe Drinking Water Act: You get 30 days.
  • The Surface Transportation Assistance Act: You get 180 days.
  • The Toxic Substances Control Act: You get 30 days.
  • The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act: You get 180 days.
  • The Federal Water Pollution Control Act: You get 30 days.
  • The Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century: You get 90 days.

This is certainly not a comprehensive list of all acts and laws that govern whistleblower rights and retaliation complaints. Your main takeaway, though, should be that you may face strict time limits regarding a retaliation complaint -- so you need to act fast. Otherwise, you could lose a significant right.

Employer retaliation claims can be very complex. You can lose out simply by not understanding the rules. For that reason alone, it's often wisest to have an attorney's aid as you proceed.

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