On August 1, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) launched a new pilot program, titled “Expedited Case Processing Pilot,” in its Western region. Here is the DOL’s press release describing the program. The program enables a complainant filing claims under whistleblower statutes to ask OSHA to cease its investigation and issue findings in an expedited fashion.
In order for a complainant’s case to move to the Office of Administrative Law Judges on an expedited basis, the following criteria must be met:
- The case must be filed under a statute that allows for de novo review by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ);
- 30 or 60 days – depending on the statute – have passed from the date the complainant first filed his or her complaint with OSHA;
- OSHA has interviewed the complainant;
- Federal investigators have evaluated the complainant’s interview and complaint to determine whether the basic elements of a whistleblower retaliation claim exist;
- Both the complainant and respondent have had the opportunity to submit written responses, meet with an OSHA investigator and present witness statements; and
- The complainant has received a copy of the respondent’s submissions and had an opportunity to respond.
If a case meets the criteria, OSHA officials will then evaluate the claims to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe that a violation of the statute occurred. OSHA will then either: (1) dismiss the claim and inform the complainant of the right to proceed before an ALJ; (2) issue merit findings as expeditiously as possible; or (3) deny the complainant’s request.
Employers will want to monitor this pilot program to ensure that complainants’ interests in a speedy process do not compromise their rights to provide OSHA with a full record.