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What should you do about workplace safety violations?

Unfortunately, Montana employers do not always prioritize their workers' safety. In some cases, workers sustain serious injuries or develop severe health conditions because their employer or supervisor decided to put profits ahead of compliance with safety laws.

If you notice unsafe practices at work, you may face a dilemma. On one hand, speaking up can ultimately create a safer workplace for everyone. On the other, many employees fear their employers will try to get back at them for "making trouble."

Possible violations

Common examples of workplace violations include illegal toxic waste dumping, failing to follow environmental and safety regulations on handling hazardous materials, failing to fix unsafe conditions, refusing to provide adequate safety equipment and training, and instructing employees not to report workplace injuries.

Legal protections

Both federal and Montana law contain provisions to protect whistleblowers against retaliation by employers. Generally, these laws cover situations where a worker reports some type of violation by the employer.

Montana's Wrongful Discharge From Employment Act protects employees who are no longer on probation from being wrongfully fired for refusing to perform an action against public policy or for other reasons. Basically, the Act means that if you have worked with your employer for over six months or another specified probationary period, your employer may only fire you with good cause.

Taking action

In most cases, if you are having workplace conflict with a supervisor who wants you to do something illegal or to cover up others' illegal behavior, the best way to proceed is to follow your company's internal guidelines for dealing with grievances. While you should not delay taking action, be sure to first speak with an experienced lawyer who can give you specific advice on the best way to handle the matter. Most often, you can only proceed with a lawsuit once you have gone through internal channels and failed to resolve the matter within 90 days. However, you only have a year from termination to file your suit, so you need to act quickly.

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Kovacich Snipes, P.C.
725 3rd Avenue North
Great Falls, MT 59401

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