In a notice published in yesterday's Federal Register, Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, announced the formation of the Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee (WPAC). The notice explains:
WPAC’s duties will be solely advisory and consultative. WPAC will advise, consult with, and make recommendations to the Secretary and the Assistant Secretary on ways to improve the fairness, efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of OSHA’s whistleblower protection activities. In particular, WPAC will make recommendations regarding the development and/or implementation of:
- Better customer service to both workers who raise complaints and
- employers who are the subject of investigations;
- Improvement in the investigative and enforcement process, and the training of OSHA investigators;
- Improvement of regulations governing OSHA investigations;
- Cooperative activities with federal agencies responsible for areas also covered by the whistleblower protection statutes enforced by OSHA; and
- Other matters concerning the fairness, efficiency and transparency of OSHA’s whistleblower investigations as identified by the Secretary or the Assistant Secretary.
“Workers who expose securities and financial fraud, adulterated foods, air and water pollution, and workplace safety hazards have a legal right to speak out without fear of retaliation, and the laws that protect these whistleblowers also protect the health, safety and well-being of all Americans,” Dr. Michaels said in a press release. “Establishing a federal advisory committee is another important effort to strengthen protections for whistleblowers.”
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and 20 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.
Under these various whistleblower provisions enacted by Congress, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or the government. Some federal whistleblower laws have surprisingly short time limits to file complaints. Environmental whistleblowers, for example, have only thirty (30) days to file their complaint with OSHA. Those seeking to make a claim of retaliation can find a lawyer through the Attorney Referral Service of the National Whistleblowers Legal Defense and Education Fund.