The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued revised policies and procedures for applying a new process for resolving whistleblower disputes. The new process is an early resolution process that is to be used as part of a regional Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program.
OSHA maintains in its press release that the ADR program offers whistleblower parties the opportunity to negotiate a settlement with the assistance of a neutral, confidential OSHA representative who has subject-matter expertise in whistleblower investigations.
"OSHA receives several thousand whistleblower complaints for investigation each year," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "The Alternative Dispute Resolution process can be a valuable alternative to the expensive and time consuming process of an investigation and litigation. It will provide whistleblower complainants and respondents the option of exploring voluntary resolution of their disputes outside of the traditional investigative process."
We applaud OSHA’s attempt to reduce litigation costs through ADR. However, ADR is often unhelpful at the early stages of whistleblower complaints because the complainant is typically pro se (without legal counsel) with unrealistic expectations. Often it takes time for the facts of a case to become clear, and premature ADR could be counterproductive and result in the parties becoming more entrenched in their respective positions. We hope OSHA will consider these concerns as it rolls out this program.