Some jobs are just plain dangerous no matter what. New York happens to be chock-full of two of the most dangerous industries: construction and cooking. Both of these labor-intensive jobs run the risk of severe injury due to heavy lifting in unstable, fast-paced environments.

However, if you’re asked to complete a job at work that you know does not have proper safety protocols in place, it’s okay to say no. In fact, it’s your right as an employee not to be subjected to dangerous work conditions.

When you can say no

Saying no to an employer isn’t easy and it doesn’t look good for your work ethic most of the time. However, it’s illegal for an employee to force you to do a task or retaliate against you for refusing to do a task if the request is dangerous. Specifically, here’s the criterion that protects your right to say no to dangerous work:

  1. You genuinely believe that doing the task presents an imminent threat of danger
  2. It is reasonably possible that the threat could cause death or serious injury
  3. You requested that your employer take action to eliminate the threat of danger, but your employer failed to take action
  4. The nature of the request doesn’t allow the hazard to be corrected by way of OSHA inspection or another enforcement channel within a timely manner

Why it’s okay to say no

If your circumstance meets the previous criteria, don’t leave it up to chance by taking this dangerous risk. An employer who retaliates against you for refusing to carry out dangerous works is in violation of your rights as an employee.

Employer retaliation can be any negative actions your employer takes against you in response to your refusal. This could include limiting your work, making crude comments, removing your eligibility for promotion or terminating your position.

An employer who takes these actions against you is breaking the law and can be penalized for it, especially if you are subjected to dangerous conditions without a choice and become seriously injured. Because these cases can be complicated, it’s a good idea to discuss the details of your situation with a legal professional first.