OSHA Agrees To Refer Untimely Whistleblowers to the NLRB

by Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP

Thanks to a recent agreement between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Labor Relations Board, safety whistleblowers won't necessarily be defeated by untimely complaints. The agencies have agreed that, whenever a whistleblower tries to file a complaint after the 30-day deadline for such complaints, OSHA will simply refer the complainant to the NLRB, which has a six-month charge-filing period.

Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act contains a "whistleblower" provision that prohibits retaliation against employees who make workplace safety and health complaints. This protection applies to both internal and external complaints, and an employer who violates Section 11(c) can be ordered to reinstate the complaining employee and pay a wide range of monetary damages.

But there is a relatively small window for asserting a Section 11(c) claim. Employees must file a whistleblower complaint with OSHA within 30 days of the retaliatory event. Those who don't are out of luck – at least as far as Section 11(c) is concerned. According to OSHA, approximately 300-600 would-be complainants fail to meet that 30-day deadline each year.

Under the new agreement between the OSHA and the NLRB, whenever a Section 11(c) whistleblower comes to OSHA after the 30-day deadline, OSHA personnel will suggest that the whistleblower contact the NLRB as soon as possible to discuss whether the alleged retaliation violated federal labor law. There is a six-month deadline for filing unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB, so a whistleblower who misses the OSHA deadline may still have months left in which to file a Board charge. To ensure the effectiveness of this referral process, the NLRB has requested that all OSHA personnel who may receive or respond to Section 11(c) communications be trained on the new referral procedures.

Having disgruntled employees run to more than one agency to file claims is nothing new, but most employers typically do not see multiple agency complaints from first-time or non-union complainants. The OSHA–NLRB agreement means that employers may be routinely dealing with two or more federal agencies over the same factual issues.

Employers should also remember that OSHA investigates complaints under 21 other federal whistleblower statutes, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. Many of those statutes have filing periods longer than 30 days, and it is not uncommon for whistleblowers to file claims under more than one statute. So it's dangerous to assume you've avoided a retaliation claim just because your employee missed the deadline for filing an OSHA 11(c) claim.

And, if you're a non-union employer, do not think you're immune to NLRB charges. All employees have rights under federal labor law, even if they're not represented by a union.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP

Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.
Feedback? Tell us what you think of the new jdsupra.com!