Q. Michigan’s labor department has sent us a letter stating that a Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act (MIOSHA) safety officer will be coming to inspect our facility regarding an employee’s safety complaint. Are we obligated to let the safety officer come into our plant and question our employees? Will the officer tell us who filed the complaint?—C.B.
A. MIOSHA safety officers can inspect your workplace with your permission—or they can secure a warrant. They will meet with your company representative (and a union representative if you have a union) to explain why they are there. They’ll want to see the area described in the safety complaint. While there, inspectors have the authority to identify and cite you for any safety violations they observe, whether related to the complaint or not.
MIOSHA says it can interview employees without your company representative being present, but will permit the union representative to be present— you can either acquiesce or ask that they leave. Most employers recognize that their job is employee safety and permit employee interviews. The source of the complaint is confidential unless the complaining employee authorizes the release of his or her name.