The Whistleblower Protection Program, administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is now accepting whistleblower complaints filed online. The online form may be completed electronically or downloaded and submitted by fax, mail or hand-delivery to a regional office. Employees, union representatives and employers should take note of the added convenience to OSHA's filing procedures.
"Whistleblower laws protect not only workers, but also the public at large and now workers will have an additional avenue available to file a complaint with OSHA," Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels said in a statement.
The online form requests information that is identical to the current paper version. The form asks basic information of the employee, including:
Bargaining unit representative information;
Employer and supervisor information; and
Details of the alleged discriminatory or retaliatory conduct.
The information collected electronically is then automatically routed to the appropriate regional OSHA investigators.
Regardless of the method used to file a complaint, OSHA's regulatory filing deadlines, which range from 30 days to 180 days, continue to apply. Employment actions that may constitute retaliation under the OSHA-enforced statutes include firing, blacklisting, demoting, disciplining or reducing pay or hours.
OSHA administers the whistleblower retaliation provisions of 22 statutes through its Whistleblower Protection Program, including sections of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). OSHA may experience an upward trend in case filings regarding legislation passed in the last five years or so, as awareness of a particular law's provisions grows in the workforce. These laws include the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (with many implementation dates in 2014 and beyond) and the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
The development of the online form is OSHA's latest action in trying to ease whistleblower access to its resources. For example, last summer OSHA released Spanish-language Fact Sheets in order to address the large segment of Hispanic or Latino workers in the US labor force. With respect to OSHA complaint resolution practices, the recently-appointed Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee advises the Secretary of Labor and Assistant Secretary Michaels on improving the fairness, efficiency and transparency of current investigative processes.