Earlier this month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 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, Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) [pdf], Affordable Care Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health 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 for whistleblower complaints filed with the Chicago office (covering Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ohio) and the San Francisco office (covering Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada, as well as various Pacific Islands including the commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and American Samoa).
When a whistleblower complaint is filed with OSHA in one of the pilot regions, the parties will be notified of their ADR options and may work with an OSHA regional ADR coordinator to use these methods. The agency is offering early resolution and mediation as two voluntary ADR options.
Early ADR could help companies avoid costly and public investigations by OHSA. More information about the ADR pilot program and how it will operate can be found in OSHA Directive 12-01 (CPL 02) [pdf].