Over the last few years, increased attention has surrounded OSHA’s whistleblower provisions. Recently, there have been signs of possible legislative action to expand protection for employees who report their employer’s legal infractions.
On April 29th, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels, testified before the U.S. Senate subcommittee of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Michaels urged Senators to consider far reaching changes to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”)’s whistleblower protections. Michaels recommended three drastic changes to the Act:
- Creating a private right of action for employees who are discriminated against because of their reporting of workplace safety issues;
- Authorizing OSHA to order “immediate preliminary reinstatement” of employees who may have been wrongly fired for reporting workplace safety issues; and
- Expanding the current 30-day statute of limitations for alleging retaliation to 180 days.
These changes would likely lead to a dramatic increase in retaliation claims brought against employers. While the Assistant Secretary strongly urged action on these issues, any amendment to OSHA would require congressional approval, an unlikely feat with the currently divided Congress and upcoming Congressional elections.
Given the significant impact of the proposed amendments, Kelley Drye will continue to monitor this area and update you on any developments.