Some federal employees and private sector employees in Washington, D.C. find that, due to the nature of their jobs, they face workplace hazards on a daily basis. If a worker finds that he or she is subjected to unsafe work conditions, and his or her employer will not address and remedy the situation, he or she may file a complaint with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. But, does an employee have the right to refuse to work in such situations?
An employee may have the right to refuse to work under limited circumstances. First, the worker must have asked his or her employer to eliminate the hazardous condition, and the employer must have failed to take such action. In addition, the worker's refusal to work must have been made in "good faith," meaning that the worker honestly believed that he or she was facing an imminent danger. Also, it must be the case that a reasonable person in the same situation would also believe that the hazardous condition presented a real danger of serious injury or death. Finally, there must not have been enough time to have the dangerous condition corrected through the normal channels of enforcement, such as asking for OSHA to examine the situation.