Measures To Improve Whistleblower Protection Program
By Jim Douglas
August 7, 2011 - In a continuing effort to improve the
Whistleblower Protection Program, the U.S. Department of
Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration
announced that it is implementing additional measures to
strengthen the program and is releasing an internal
report detailing a recent top-to-bottom review of the
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 21 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace safety, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.
ability of workers to speak out and exercise their legal rights
without fear of retaliation is crucial to many of the legal
protections and safeguards that all Americans value," said OSHA
Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "The new measures will
significantly strengthen OSHA's enforcement of the 21
whistleblower laws that Congress charged OSHA with
Government Accountability Office audited OSHA's whistleblower
program in 2009 and 2010, highlighting challenges related to
transparency and accountability, training for investigators and
managers, and the internal communications and audit program.
conducted an internal review that examined national and regional
program structures, operational procedures, investigative
processes, budget, equipment and personnel issues. "OSHA is
committed to correcting the issues brought to light by the GAO
report and our own review," said Dr. Michaels.
Restructuring - OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program will
report directly to the assistant secretary instead of being
housed in the Directorate of Enforcement. In addition, changes
in field structure are currently being pilot tested. Commencing
with its fiscal 2012 budget, OSHA established a separate line
item for the whistleblower program to better track and hold
accountable its activities and accomplishments. These changes,
in addition to the 25 new investigators added, should
significantly improve the administration and stature of the
Training - OSHA will hold a national whistleblower training conference in September which will be attended by all whistleblower investigators from both federal and state plans, as well as by Labor Department solicitors who work on whistleblower cases. In addition, OSHA will offer several other investigator training events, and will strive to ensure that all investigators and supervisors who have not received the mandatory training courses will receive them by the end of the calendar year.
Program Policy - OSHA revised and will soon issue a new edition of the Whistleblower Investigations Manual that updates current procedures and includes information on the new laws enacted since the manual was last updated in 2003. This new manual will provide further guidance on the enforcement program to help ensure consistency and quality of investigations.
-The data collection system has been modified and the audit program is being strengthened and expanded to ensure that complaints are properly handled on a timely basis.
provision laws enacted by Congress prohibit employers from retaliating
against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide
protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees
who believe they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected
conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor for an
investigation by the Whistleblower Protection Program.
The 21 whistleblower statutes enforced by OSHA include: Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act; Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act; International Safe Container Act; Surface Transportation Assistance Act; Clean Air Act; Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act; Federal Water Pollution Control Act; Safe Drinking Water Act; Solid Waste Disposal Act; Toxic Substances Control Act; Energy Reorganization Act; Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century; Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act, Title VIII of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act; Pipeline Safety Improvement Act; Federal Railroad Safety Act; National Transit Systems Security Act; Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act; Affordable Care Act; Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010, Section 1057 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010; Seaman's Protection Act, as amended by Section 611 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010; and the Food and Drug Administration's Food Safety Modernization Act.
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