OSHA to Investigate Retaliation Complaints Under Money Laundering and Criminal Antitrust Laws

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The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (“OSHA”) now will investigate workers’ complaints of retaliation for reporting alleged money laundering and antitrust-related violations under new whistleblower statutes.  On February 19, 2021, the Department of Labor announced that OSHA would oversee whistleblower claims alleging retaliation under two laws – the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 (“AMLA”) and the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act.

Under the AMLA, OSHA will investigate individual whistleblowers’ retaliation complaints for reporting money laundering-related violations to their superiors or the federal government; or for showing cause, testifying or participating in, or otherwise assisting an investigation or proceeding related to a violation of anti-money laundering (“AML”) laws.  As we have blogged, the AMLA’s amendment to the Bank Secrecy Act has expanded greatly the options for whistleblowers alleging AML violations, and potentially may create a wave of litigation and government actions, similar to what has occurred in the wake of the creation of the Dodd-Frank whistleblower program.  As we also have noted, the AMLA allows for whistleblowers to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) for any retaliatory action taken and, if they do not receive a decision within 180 days, bring the complaint to federal district court and seek a jury trial.  A successful whistleblower may be reinstated and potentially receive compensatory damages, double back pay, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Under the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act, OSHA will investigate individual whistleblowers’ complaints of retaliation for reporting criminal antitrust violations to their superiors or the federal government; or for showing cause, testifying or participating in, or otherwise assisting an investigation or proceeding related to antitrust law violations.

Whistleblower protection is typically not limited to just those who report actual violations. Rather, DOL and court precedent extends protection to whistleblowers’ reasonable but mistaken beliefs that the conduct reported violated relevant law. To take advantage of such protection, complainants must show that their beliefs that the conduct they reported violated a law were “objectively reasonable.”

Until OSHA issues interim final rules governing the new investigations, it will process whistleblower complaints related to these statutes using procedures under the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century.

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.

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