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Food workers offered whistle-blower protection

Wisconsin workers employed in the food industry may be interested in the protection they have under federal law if they should bring an issue of concern forward. Those who are engaged in the processing, packing, distribution or holding of food, among other activities, are protected from retaliation if they highlight a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

The Food Safety Modernization Act protects employees who bring issues forward to the employer, the state attorney general or federal authorities. The worker can be assured when participating in an investigation or refusing to participate in an activity he or she knows to be a violation of the law that he or she can improve the situation should the employer create a hostile work environment.

The employer is prohibited from taking action that is detrimental to the employee. For example, the employer may not legally fire, demote, cut hours, discipline, reassign or harass a worker who cooperates with authorities or identifies and brings an issue forward.

An employee who believes that it is best to reveal a known or planned violation of the laws associated with food handling and distribution may want to consult with an attorney to understand the parameters of time and actions under which they must operate. A whistle-blower who has already expressed the concerns and who believes that the employer is taking retaliation against those actions may want to take steps to safeguard employment and the future of his or her livelihood and financial security. An attorney may be able to assist a worker with filing a claim with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration , "Filing Whistleblower Complaints under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act", accessed on Jan. 16, 2015

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