In issuing its revised Whistleblower Investigations Manual, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has relaxed its standard of investigation somewhat from a preponderance of evidence to reasonable cause.

The manual requires that investigators evaluate all evidence from the complainant, witnesses and sources to determine if a “reasonable judge” would find that a violation may have occurred.

Chapter 3 of the manual states:

The standard that applies to OSHA whistleblower investigations is whether OSHA has reasonable cause to believe a violation occurred. This standard applies to all elements of a violation. Thus, for all statutes in which cases are heard by an administrative law judge (ALJ) following OSHA’s investigation, OSHA issues merit findings when there is reasonable cause to believe that a violation of the relevant whistleblower statute has occurred.

The manual directs states operating their own OSH agencies to adopt the new standard within six months or present a substantially similar standard for review. OSHA is tasked with enforcing the nation’s 22 separate whistleblower laws, but not all of the laws can be enforced at the state level.

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