Seyfarth Synopsis: Employers that are regulated under any of the 22 federal whistleblower protection laws are encouraged to review company policies, procedures, and training systems to examine conformity with this guidance.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has just issued its Recommended Practices for Anti-Retaliation Programs to help guide employers in creating “workplaces in which workers feel comfortable voicing their concerns without fear of retaliation.” The recommendations will apply to all public and private sector employers covered under the 22 whistleblower protection laws that OSHA enforces.

The Recommended Practices outline five elements that OSHA believes make up an effective anti-retaliation program, including:

  1. Management leadership, commitment, and accountability.
  2. System for listening to and resolving employees’ safety and compliance concerns.
  3. System for receiving and responding to reports of retaliation.
  4. Anti-retaliation training for employees and managers.
  5. Program oversight.

OSHA’s twelve page Recommended Practices provide some discussion on each of these “key elements.” Jordan Barab, OSHA acting Director, said that “these recommended practices will provide companies with the tools to create a robust anti-retaliation program.”

OSHA had published an initial draft of the Recommended Practices for review and comment in the November 2015. Differences from the proposal may be reviewed in OSHA’s Response to Public Comments.

Employers that are regulated under any of the 22 federal whistleblower protection laws are encouraged to review closely company policies, procedures, and training systems to examine conformity with this guidance. We note that their Recommended Practices tie into OSHA’s Amended Injury and Illness Standards form 2016. We expect OSHA inspectors to begin including these issues in their inspections.