The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has announced that it will begin offering early resolution and mediation instead of investigations in two OSHA regions to address complaints filed with the agency’s Whistleblower Protection Program. OSHA is charged with enforcing the whistleblower provisions in 22 separate statutes, including the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), Affordable Care Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. OSHA reports that it receives approximately 2,500 whistleblower complaints each year.

The voluntary alternative dispute resolution (ADR) pilot program will be tested for one year in regions five and nine, covering whistleblower complaints filed in OSHA offices located in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada, as well as various Pacific Islands including the commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and American Samoa.

The agency is permitting each region to conduct up to 15 mediation sessions each with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), and will allow the regions to offer unlimited early resolution, defined as “a voluntary process in which the parties to a dispute (whistleblower complaint) attempt to resolve the dispute (whistleblower complaint) prior to OSHA launching an investigation.”

In the news release announcing the new program, OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels said: “OSHA is committed to fair, effective and timely enforcement of the whistleblower laws delegated to us by Congress.  . . .  Alternative dispute resolution can provide immediate relief and finality to both parties.”

More information about the ADR pilot program and how it will operate can be found in OSHA Directive 12-01 (CPL 02). (pdf)