On October 31st, 2023, two federal agencies announced that they joined forces to fortify whistleblower protections in the workplace. Accordingly, the Department of Labor (DOL) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) shared details about this collaboration. In summary, the two agencies will provide more information-sharing, outreach, and training efforts on whistleblower provisions. Both agencies believe this is crucial to safeguarding workers’ rights who, as whistleblowers, raise concerns about workplace violations or retaliation. Previously, the NLRB issued a final rule on joint employers, rescinding the previous 2020 final rule.

Ensuring Whistleblower Protections

The DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the NLRB signed a Memorandum of Understanding to solidify the alliance. Chiefly, this agreement outlines procedures for information-sharing, referrals, training, and outreach to interpret federal anti-retaliation protections. According to the agencies, this is a significant step forward in ensuring that employees can exercise their legal rights.

Markedly, Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker emphasized the importance of this partnership. Parker stated, “Everyone should be able to exercise their legal rights in the workplace without fear of losing their job or other forms of punishment. Our partnership with the [NLRB] will expand both of our agencies’ impact and effectiveness in protecting workers who raise concerns about workplace violations or retaliation.”

Enhancing Coordination for Worker Protection

Explicitly, this collaboration not only aims to promote workers’ rights awareness but also offers whistleblower protections. According to OSHA, workplace safety is a fundamental concern, as it can be a matter of life and death for workers. The ability to report workplace hazards without fear of retaliation is critically essential. (Employers can find additional information on six common workplace hazards to address here.)

Jennifer A. Abruzzo, the NLRB General Counsel, highlighted this partnership’s importance. Ms. Abruzzo stated, “Today’s [Memorandum of Understanding] will bolster protections for workers to speak out about unsafe working conditions by strengthening coordination between OSHA and the NLRB on our enforcement efforts.”

Promoting Worker Voices

As part of this joint effort, the two agencies also created a fact sheet titled “Building Safe & Healthy Workplaces by Promoting Worker Voice.” According to OSHA and the NLRB, this resource will help workers better understand any recourse when employers violate their rights. Specifically, the essential fact sheet empowers employees to speak out about violations without the fear of retaliation.

Employer Takeaways

In conclusion, this collaboration between OSHA and the NLRB signifies a big step in strengthening whistleblower protections. Undeniably, it’s reassuring for workers who want to report violations and safety concerns without fearing retaliation. For more information on whistleblower protections, visit OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program web page.