U.S. Department of Labor Prioritizes Whistleblower Protection

Posted on Tue, Mar 27, 2012

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a restructuring of its Whistleblower Protection Program. Under the restructuring, the DOL’s Office of the Assistant Secretary will now oversee the program.

The restructuring will significantly elevate priority status for whistleblower enforcement, according to the DOL’s announcement. Emphasizing employees’ rights, the head of OSHA, Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels, stated: “The ability of workers to speak out … without fear of retaliation provides the backbone for some of American workers’ most essential legal protections.”

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Unbeknownst to many, OSHA also enforces 20 other statutes protecting the rights of employees to report various regulatory violations relating to workplaces, commercial vehicles, airlines, the environment, consumer products, food and safety, and consumer financial reform.

OSHA also became responsible for investigating and enforcing laws protecting individuals who complain of corporate securities fraud with the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) in 2002.

Last year, OSHA first announced that it would restructure its whistleblower program as part of a “multifaceted plan” to strengthen enforcement efforts. As part of its plan, DOL requested a budgetary increase of more than $6 million for additional investigators for FY 2012. DOL also released a new edition of its Whistleblower Investigation Manual.

Additional information is available from the DOL.

Retaliation and whistleblower claims have received a lot of attention recently and continue to be on the rise. 

Author: Gail Cecchettini Whaley

HR Watchdog, HRCalifornia’s Employment Law Blog, © California Chamber of Commerce

Tags: OSHA violations whistleblower act OSHA training Vi