The Occupational Safety & Health Act (“OSH Act”) authorizes OSHA, as part of an inspection of an employer, to “question privately any such employer, owner, operator, agent or employee.” As part of an OSHA inspection, the employer should expect the agency to request interviews in private with management and non-management employees. A previous posting on this blog has already addressed interviews of management employees.
An employer has a right to inform non-management employees of their rights and obligations during an OSHA interview. OSHA legal experts generally agree this right should be exercised by an employer. After all, questioning by a representative of the federal government can be an intimidating experience. The employee may not know that he or she has the right to say no to the OSHA Compliance Officer; the OSHA Compliance Officer will likely not volunteer this information. Intimidation and ignorance of employee rights risks inaccurate, confusing or incomplete answers which may lead to citations with significant fines. Knowledge can thus serve not only the employee, but also the employer.