As investigations into the water crisis in Flint, Mich., are underway, National COSH is calling for public workers to aid in the efforts.

The council is working to let public employees know that sharing information about the water struggles in Flint is their legal right.

“We need to get to the bottom of what happened in Flint and find out why tens of thousands of people, including workers, have been exposed to contaminated water,” said Jessica Martinez, acting executive director of National COSH.

“Public employees should know they can step forward and report any information they have about this public health crisis. Whistleblower laws protect them from any retaliation whatsoever if they share information about potential wrongdoing.”

Martinez said that both Michigan and deferral statutes make it illegal for employers to retaliate against whistleblowers. That includes firing, demoting or harassing employees who report potential violations of the law.

“Front-line workers often have crucial information about sources of environmental contamination that threaten workers and communities,” said Peter Dooley, a safety project coordinator at National COSH.

“It’s important for workers to know they have a legal right to come forward – and anybody who tries to intimidate or silence them is breaking the law.”

U.S. statutes protect workers who report violations of the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, while Michigan law protects employees of the state, including city, county and township workers. The Michigan Civil Service Commission also protects state workers, as does federal whistleblower law.

Michigan’s whistleblower statute

Rules of the Michigan Civil Service Commission

Federal whistleblower protection programs