The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published interim final rules that establish procedures governing whistleblower complaints filed under the Seaman’s Protection Act. The act protects seamen from retaliation for engaging in protected activity under the Act, including providing information to the government about an alleged violation of maritime safety laws or regulations. OSHA is requesting public comment on the interim final rules.

On Oct. 15, 2010, Congress amended the Seaman’s Protection Act by enacting Section 611 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010. Among the revisions, Congress transferred the administration of the whistleblower protections in the act to OSHA, which were previously enforced through federal court. Congress also expanded protected activities under the Act, and adopted the procedures and burdens of proof provided in Section 31105 of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

The interim final rule establishes the procedures and time frames for handling retaliation complaints, including procedures and time frames for filing complaints with OSHA, investigations, appeals of OSHA determinations to an administrative law judge (ALJ) for a hearing, review of ALJ decisions by the Administrative Review Board, and judicial review of the secretary of labor’s final decision.