Rep. George Miller (D-CA) has reintroduced a bill that would provide whistleblower protections for employees in the offshore oil and gas industries. The Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act (H.R. 1649) would prohibit employers from retaliating against offshore oil and gas workers who provide information to their employer or a government official regarding any “reasonable belief” that there has been a violation of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). The bill would also protect employees who exercise their rights under the OCSLA; report injuries or unsafe conditions to their employer or a government official; or refuse to perform work based on a good faith belief that doing so would cause injury, impairment, or an oil spill. In addition, as discussed in a fact sheet, the legislation would establish a procedure for filing complaints with the Department of Labor – which enforces whistleblower provisions in 22 separate statutes – and would allow for awards of back pay, exemplary damages, attorneys’ fees, and remedies to address whistleblower “blacklisting.”
In 2010 the House of Representatives approved an earlier version of the Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act, but the bill failed to progress in the Senate.
The bill’s reintroduction reflects Congress and the Administration’s continued focus on expanding whistleblower protections. Notably, the Department of Labor has requested $22 million for the agency’s whistleblower protection program for Fiscal Year 2014, a $6 million increase from current levels.