Federal agencies Whistleblower

Witnesses tell Senate subcommittee to revise OSHA whistleblower statute

Washington – OSHA administrator David Michaels and stakeholders at a recent Senate subcommittee hearing made their case for strengthening the agency’s statute that protects workers who blow the whistle on employers for violating occupational safety standards.

OSHA does not have adequate inspectors to ensure compliance with the law, and workers are in the best position to identify hazards, Michaels told the Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee on April 29. Currently, the OSHA statute meant to shield workers from employer retaliation does not offer the same level of protection as other, more recent whistleblower statutes, he said.

Michaels and worker advocates who testified during the hearing recommended several legislative changes, including extending the 30-day statute of limitations to 180 days, allowing full administrative review of cases and providing OSHA with the authority to immediately reinstate workers that the agency suspects were illegally terminated.

Regarding non-legislative changes, Michaels said more funding would allow OSHA to better oversee the 22 whistleblower statutes for which the agency is responsible.

Gregory Keating, co-chair of the Whistleblower and Retaliation Group at law firm Littler Mendelson in Boston, suggested that employers need to receive guidance on the issue, something Michaels said OSHA is developing.