On September 28th, 2023, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it will hold an online meeting to gather input on its whistleblower program. The meeting is open to the public and will allow OSHA to hear public comments and suggestions. OSHA enforces whistleblower provisions for more than 20 statutes. OSHA’s continued focus on improving its whistleblower program means employers should examine their workplace for critical compliance gaps in workplace hazard prevention, environmental responsibility, or security trading. In March 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule on handling whistleblower retaliation complaints.
OSHA’s Whistleblower Program
OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces whistleblower protection provisions under several statutes. These include Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA). In brief, whistleblower provisions protect employees from retaliation for engaging in various protected activities. Specifically, under the program, employers cannot retaliate against employees who engage in protected whistleblower activities like the following:
- firing or laying off,
- denying overtime or promotion, or
- reducing pay or hours.
Retaliation occurs when an employer (including anyone with the authority to make tangible employment decisions, like a supervisor or administrator) fires an employee or takes any adverse employment action against them for engaging in protected activity. Protected activity includes reporting issues related to safety, environmental protection, fraud and financial issues, or health insurance.
Public Meeting on Program Outreach and Training
OSHA will hold its online meeting to gather public input on the whistleblower program on Tuesday, October 24th, 2023. OSHA will hold the meeting from 1 PM to 4 PM EDT. The agency will gather public comments and suggestions on improving whistleblower program outreach and training initiatives. Specifically, OSHA is seeking comments and ideas based on the following prompts:
- How can OSHA deliver better service related to receiving and responding to whistleblower complaints?
- How can OSHA better provide assistance to or help employees and employers understand OSHA’s whistleblower program and the whistleblower provisions it enforces?
OSHA will hold the meeting in both English and Spanish. Interested parties must register for free in English or Spanish by October 17th, 2023. Individuals may also submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal for Docket No. OSHA-2018-0005. The deadline to submit comments overall is November 7th, 2023.