The United States Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA") recently announced a series of new measures to strengthen its whistleblower protection program. As part of this initiative, OSHA will release an updated Whistleblower Investigations Manual to improve its investigative process and ensure consistency in processing complaints. Additionally, OSHA is refining and updating its training initiatives for its investigators and improving its internal database to ensure that complaints are properly and timely addressed. OSHA has also recently appointed a new Acting Director and added over 25 new investigators and seeks to hire an additional 45 investigators.
OSHA enforces whistleblower protections in 21 statutes in a variety of industries covering such areas as workplace safety and health, transportation safety, pipeline safety, nuclear safety, the environment, asbestos in schools, health care, financial reform and corporate fraud. These statutes prohibit employers from discharging or otherwise retaliating against individuals who complain, participate in an inspection, or participate or testify in any proceeding related to a complaint. OSHA's heightened attention to whistleblower activity highlights for employers the need to carefully evaluate any employment decisions that may implicate whistleblower protections.