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Tennessee Employment Law Center Tennessee Employment Law Center
Tennessee Employment Law Center
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Gender Discrimination
National Origin Discrimination
Pregnancy Discrimination
Race and Color Discrimination
Religious Discrimination
Sexual Harassment
...and the Law
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
Employment at Will
Equal Pay Act
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Insurance Benefits on Termination and Resignation (COBRA)
Mine Safety and Health Act (MSHA)
Non-Compete Agreements
Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
Rehabilitation Act of 1974 (Rehab Act)
Unemployment Benefits
Uniformed Services Employment & Re-Employment Rights Act (USERRA)
Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN)
Workers' Compensation (Workers' Comp)

Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)

The Occupational Safety and Health Act and its administrating agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, known collectively as OHSA, protect the rights of American workers to go home from work each day as whole and healthy as they started the day. To accomplish this goal, OSHA sets workplace health and safety standards. In addition, it provides safety and health information, training and assistance to both workers and employers. Note that OSHA is a fairly complex set of rules and regulations, often very particular to specific industries and professions. If you have a specific question, it is in your best interest to contact your regional OSHA administrator. The following provides a general overview of how OSHA works.


  • The Occupational Safety and Health Act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which enforces standards of health and safety in the workplace.
  • OSHA has a general-duty clause that serves as a catchall provision in the absence of a specific standard and articulates the underlying purpose of the law.
  • OSHA covers substantially all employers and employees.
  • Worker rights under OSHA include the rights to:
    • Receive training by your employer as required by OSHA standards.
    • Request information about OSHA standards, worker injuries and illnesses, job hazards, and workers' rights from your employer.
    • Request that your employer correct hazards or violations.
    • File a complaint with OSHA.
    • Be involved with OSHA's inspections.
    • Find out results of OSHA's inspections.
    • Get involved in meetings or hearings to discuss any objections your employer has to OSHA violations.
    • File a formal appeal.
    • File a discrimination complaint.
    • Request a research investigation on possible workplace health hazards.
  • In addition to rights, workers also have responsibilities under OSHA. These include:
    • Reading the OSHA poster that all employers are required to post.
    • Following the employer's safety and health rules.
    • Wearing or using all required gear and equipment.
    • Following safe work practices for your job, as directed by your employer.
    • Reporting hazardous conditions to a supervisor or safety committee.
    • Reporting hazardous conditions to OSHA if the employer fails to fix the problem in a timely manner.


  • There are three types of work that are not covered by OSHA:
    1. Self-employed persons.
    2. Farms where the only people employed are immediate family members.
    3. Places of employment that are regulated by other federal agencies or other federal laws.


  • OSHA standards are rules designed to protect workers from hazards on the job. The standards include some very specific regulations and a General Duty Clause.
  • The General Duty Clause is a catchall provision in OSHA that requires employers to "furnish a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to their employees."

Filing Requirements and Limitations:

  • There is no private right to bring an action for an OSHA violation; it rests exclusively with the Secretary of Labor. You must file a complaint with OSHA for a business to be investigated if an employer does not respond to your reports of hazardous conditions.
  • If your employer discriminates against you or retaliates for the filing of an OSHA complaint, you may file an additional discrimination charge with OSHA.
  • Remember, you can always file your OSHA complaint anonymously.
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