In an action with important implications for workers in risky jobs and their employers, the Supreme Court agreed yesterday to decide whether the Labor Department can forbid retaliation against employees who -- in good faith -- refuse to perform tasks they believe present an immediate danger to life or limb.

The justices accepted a petition by Whirlpool Corp. to review a 6th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that the no-retaliation rule was authorized by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. A contrary ruling had been made by the 5th Circuit leading the government to endorse Whirlpool's request for review.

The court took other actions yesterday:

A challenge to union political spending was turned away by the court, which left standing a ruling by the 8th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a case involving the United Automobile Workers.

The union's constitutional and national conventions authorized contribution of UAW funds to political, social and civic groups. Some members went to court to protest, alleging that former UAW president Leonard Woodcock and other officials had breached their fiduciary duties under the 1958 Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. But the appeals court held that the law did not authorize the protestors to bring the suit.

Under Michigan's 1973 no-fault auto insurance law, benefits to beneficiaries are reduced to offset payments made by the federal and state governments under other laws. A claim that this violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws was rejected by the state's highest tribunal. The court upheld the Michigan ruling yesterday.

The court also upheld a Tennessee Supreme Court decision on newspaper advertising.

Virtually all of the nation's newspapers, including this one, allow abbreviations in advertisements. The publisher of the Nashville Tennesseean and Banner, does not. Charles Galbreath, owner of a rental property business, tried to run an ad with abbreviations.

The company said it would not publish the ad with abgreviations.

Galbreath charged that the company's purpose was to lengthen ads to increase the price. But Newspaper Printing Corp. said it rejected abbreviations to prevent confusion of readers. And, it said, Galbreath was trying to buy a service it didn't sell: publication of abbreviated ads.

The complaint was dismissed by a trial court. Agreeing, the Tennessee Supreme Court said last May, "Newspaper publishers may refuse to publish whatever advertisement they do not desire to publish..."

The U. S. Supreme Court denied Galbreath's petition for review.