The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced the launch of an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) pilot project for complaints filed with the agency’s Whistleblower Protection Program. OSHA will implement the pilot project in its Chicago and San Francisco regional offices, which together cover whistleblower investigations in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin, as well as various Pacific Islands including the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and American Samoa.
The pilot program will offer two voluntary methods of ADR: early resolution and mediation. When a whistleblower complaint is filed in one of the pilot regions, OSHA will inform the parties of their ADR options and provide a regional coordinator to work through these methods if requested. Under the early resolution process, parties would attempt to resolve a dispute before OSHA launches an investigation to determine the validity of the charges, pretext or potential violations. The mediation process would involve a neutral third party to help the parties resolve a dispute by mutual agreement. See OSHA News Release, October 2, 2012.