Your boss has a job for you. He or she outlines it quickly and you’re instantly nervous. It seems much too dangerous, with the risk of injury far too high. You don’t want to do it. Can you refuse?
Legally, you do have a right to say you won’t take unneeded risks. However, there are four key conditions that play into this, and they all must be met.
— You have to make a “good faith” refusal. You can’t say it’s dangerous just because you don’t feel like doing it. Your fear has to be real.
— You must give your employer a chance to give you a safer option. Sometimes, this is simple. For instance, your employer may have asked you to go up on a roof without fall protection gear. You can then ask for the proper safety gear, and your employer may comply so that you can still do the job.
— There needs to be a time constraint, meaning you must refuse, rather than using regular safety measures. For instance, if there’s no immediate deadline, you may instead be able to ask for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to do an inspection.
— It has to be clear that any reasonable individual would agree that there was a clear danger and that you could have been hurt or killed. You can’t be the only one who thinks so if everyone else doesn’t believe it’s actually a dangerous job.
Even when all the above conditions are met, workers are often hesitant to refuse to work for fear of being fired. If you were pressured into a dangerous job and got injured, you need to know what legal rights you have to compensation.
Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Workers’ Right to Refuse Dangerous Work,” accessed June 15, 2017