On August 14, 2008, President Bush signed into law the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), which includes, among many extensive changes to consumer safety laws, a whistle-blower provision.
This provision applies to all manufacturers, distributors, retailers and private labelers of children's toys, children’s products and child care articles, regardless of the number of employees. Under the Act, children's toys and children's products are generally defined as being "designed or intended primarily for children 12 years of age or younger." "Child care articles" are defined as "a consumer product designed or intended by the manufacturer to facilitate sleep or the feeding of children age 3 and younger, or to help such children with sucking or teething."
The Act, which became effective immediately upon President Bush's signature, protects covered employees from retaliation resulting from:
(a) providing or "being about to" provide to the employer, the federal government or state attorney general information relating to any act or omission that the employee reasonably believes to be a violation of the law.
(b) testifying or "being about to" testify in a proceeding concerning such a violation;
(c) assisting or participating in, or "being about to" assist or participate in, such a proceeding; or
(d) objecting to, or refusing to participate in, any activity, policy, practice or assigned task that they (or other such persons) reasonably believed to be a violation of any provision of the Act or any other law enforced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, or any order, rule, regulation, standard, or ban under such laws.
Consistent with a variety of other federal whistleblower statutes, OSHA is responsible for accepting complaints, conducting investigations and hearings and otherwise enforcing the CPSIA whistleblower provision.
The CPSIA, which was enacted in response to last year's overwhelming number of recalls of children's products and toys, contains numerous revisions to the consumer safety laws relating to all aspects of the manufacture and sale of children's toys, children's products and child care articles. All affected employers should re-evaluate their policies and procedures not only to ensure compliance with these amendments, but also to ensure that appropriate procedures are in place to address employee concerns about covered product safety and to ensure legitimate non-retaliatory bases for any discipline imposed on any covered employee.