OSHA recently announced its new online complaint filing process for whistleblowers making it easier to file complaints against manufacturers on a 24-hour basis. OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of more than twenty whistleblower statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace safety, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws. Rights afforded by these whistleblower acts include, but are not limited to, worker participation in safety and health activities, reporting a work related injury, illness or fatality, or reporting a violation of the statutes. We previously reported on the dramatic increase of whistleblower claims in an earlier post.
In light of recent OSHA decisions favoring employees, as well as a recent increase in the number of reported retaliation claims and the new online complaint filing process, employers may wish to consider a comprehensive review of current policies and practices, as well as additional employee and supervisory training to ensure that all work environments are open to internal reporting of unlawful practices.
It noteworthy to point out that even the U.S. Department of Labor is not out of reach. The U.S. Department of Labor entered into a settlement earlier this year to pay former OSHA official Bob Whitmore $820,000 – one of the largest federal whistle-blower settlements ever approved – to end the lengthy legal battles between the agency and Whitmore. His story is an interesting read and quite compelling as it involves the very agency that was designed to protect whistleblowers.