OSHA Offers Faster Process for Whistleblowers

Employees seeking compensation because they suffered damage by blowing the whistle on workplace safety and other violations might not have to wait so long anymore to get relief.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced today a new pilot program in its western region to allow whistleblower complainants to ask OSHA to cease its investigation and issue findings for the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges to consider.

The case has to meet certain criteria to qualify for this expedited process.

The department acknowledges that OSHA’s investigation process can take time, and complainants may be able to receive a determination more quickly without losing their rights to a hearing by electing to expedite OSHA’s processing of their claims.

Once a complainant requests expedited processing, the case will be assessed for the following criteria:

  • ­­The claim is filed under a statute that allows for de novo review by an administrative law judge.
  • Depending on the statute, 30 or 60 days have passed from the date the complainant first filed with the claim with OSHA.
  • OSHA has interviewed the complainant.
  • Federal investigators have evaluated the complaint and the complainant’s interview to determine if the basic elements of a retaliation claim exist.
  • Both the complainant and the respondent have had the opportunity to submit written responses, meet with an OSHA investigator and present statements from witnesses.
  • The complainant has received a copy of the respondent’s submissions and had an opportunity to respond.

Once OSHA officials determine that these criteria are met, they will evaluate the claim to determine – based on the information gathered up to the date of the complainant’s request for expedited processing – whether reasonable cause exists to believe that a violation of the statute occurred. OSHA officials will then take one of three actions: dismiss the claim and inform the complainant of the right to proceed before an administrative law judge; issue merit findings as expeditiously as possible; or deny the request.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.

This post was featured by the Ohio Employer’s Law blog weekly roundup of Aug. 19

 

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