Workers are entitled to protection from discrimination. L&I handles safety and health, wage and hour, and some other types of workplace discrimination.
Your employer may not fire you or discriminate or retaliate against you solely because you have exercised your workplace safety & health rights, such as:
- Bringing job safety and health concerns to your employer's attention.
- Participating in union activities concerning safety and health matters.
- Refusing a dangerous task when certain conditions exist.
- Filing safety and health grievances.
- Participating in safety and health inspections with a DOSH inspector.
- Filing a complaint about a workplace safety or health hazard with DOSH, OSHA, your local health or fire department or any other appropriate government agency.
The Health Emergency Labor Standards Act (HELSA)
HELSA applies to workplaces during a declared public health emergency involving an infectious or contagious disease. HELSA protects high-risk employees from being discharged, permanently replaced, or discriminated against in the workplace for seeking accommodation from exposure to an infectious or contagious disease during a public health emergency. HELSA is administered by L&I and currently applies to accommodations related to COVID-19.
For information on HELSA protection from discrimination, see: Questions and Answers: Protecting High-Risk Employees from Discrimination During Public Health Emergencies
We can help you determine if you have been discriminated against for exercising any of these rights.
- Call 360-902-6088 or 1-800-423-7233.
- Get a discrimination complaint form (F416-011-000) in English or in Spanish and other languages (F416-011-999).
- You can submit the form to our secure file upload. You can also use this link to send us photos, videos, documents, and all other supporting information along with your form.
- Contact your nearest L&I office.
More information on workplace safety and health discrimination
- Safety and Health Discrimination in the Workplace brochure (F417-244-000) / Spanish Safety & Health Discrimination brochure (F417-244-999)
- RCW 49.17.160 – Workplace Discrimination (Washington state law)
- Discrimination (Chapter 296-360, WAC) (L&I Rule)
The Health Emergency Labor Standards Act (HELSA) works in conjunction with existing disability protections found in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Washington Law Against Discrimination. An employee’s protection under HELSA does not affect other protections under federal or state laws concerning reasonable accommodation or discrimination.
L&I does NOT have jurisdiction over any of the following kinds of unfair or discriminatory treatment, except where HELSA applies. If a worker feels they are being treated unfairly for any of those reasons, contact the appropriate agency:
- Creed (religion)
- National origin
- Age (40+)
- Sex (including pregnancy and maternity)
- Marital status
- Use of guide dog or service animal by a person with a disability
- HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis C status
- Sexual orientation/gender identity
- Honorably discharged veteran and military status
- Retaliation for reporting a discriminatory action
- State employee whistleblower retaliation
- Health care whistleblower retaliation
While Washington is an at-will employment state, employers cannot fire or retaliate against an employee who exercises a protected right or files a complaint under certain employment laws, including the Minimum Wage Act, which guarantees that workers:
- Be paid at least minimum wage for all hours worked.
- Receive overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a work week.
- Accrue, and be allowed to use, paid sick leave hours.
- Be paid tips and service charges.
- Be able to discuss potential violations of these rights with your employer.
- File a complaint with Labor and Industries regarding any of these rights.
If you believe your rights have been violated, there are three ways you can file a complaint:
- File a Worker Rights Complaint online.
- Download and mail a completed Retaliation Complaint Form.
- Visit your nearest L&I office.
Other laws that protect employees from discrimination or retaliation include: