On Apr 18, 2013, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced bill to extend whistleblower protections to offshore oil and gas workers. Currently there is no federal law that protects oil and gas workers if they are retaliated against after they blow the whistle on workplace health and safety violations on the Outer Continental Shelf. Workers on oilrigs like the Deepwater Horizon risk losing their jobs if they report dangerous workplace conditions. The workers performing cleanup activities on the Outer Continental Shelf similarly have no protections against employer retaliation for raising health and safety concerns.
The Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats issued a fact sheet about the Bill. The fact sheet calls for all workers to be protected when they blow the whistle on “concerns about unsafe working conditions” and to grant the workers the “right to stop working if they fear they could be injured or killed.”
“Employees are best situated to discover hazards in the work environment; they are the first line of detection and should be protected when raising concerns,” stated Stephen Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center.
The Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act of 2013 (H.R.1649) extends whistleblower protections to employees of employers working on the Outer Continental Shelf performing oil and gas exploration, drilling, production, or oil spill cleanup.
The bill is modeled after other modern whistleblower statutes and would:
- Prohibit an employer from discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee who reports to the employer, or a federal or state government official that he or she reasonably believes the employer is violating the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA).
- Protect covered employees who report injuries or unsafe conditions related to the offshore work, refuse to work based on a good faith belief that the offshore work could cause injury or impairment or a spill, or refuse to perform work in a manner that they believe violates the OCSLA.
- Establish a process for an employee to appeal an employer’s retaliation by filing a complaint with the Secretary of Labor, and allowing a jury trial if the Secretary fails to act in a timely manner.
- Make an aggrieved employee eligible for reinstatement, back pay and compensatory and consequential damages, and, where appropriate, exemplary damages.
- Require employers to post a notice that explains employee rights and remedies under this Act and provide training to the employees of these rights.
Read the text of the Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act, here.