U.S. Labor Dept. improves Whistleblower Protection Program

September 2011, Vol. 66 No. 9

In a continuing effort to improve the Whistleblower Protection Program, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it is implementing additional measures to strengthen the program and is releasing an internal report detailing a recent review of the program.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 21 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace safety laws.

“The 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 administering.”

The 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. OSHA also conducted an internal review that examined national and regional program structures, operational procedures, investigative processes, budget, equipment and personnel issues.

The significant changes to the Whistleblower Protection Program announced by OSHA include restructuring, training, program policy and internal systems.

A copy of OSHA’s internal review report is available at www.whistleblowers.gov/report_summary_page.html.

The whistleblower 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. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online at: http://www.whistleblowers.gov.