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OSHA launches regional pilot program on speeding up whistleblower review process


Photo: mipan/iStock/Thinkstock

San Francisco – OSHA has launched a pilot program in its Western region that allows whistleblowers protected by certain statutes to request that the agency stop an investigation and release findings to the Office of Administrative Law Judges.

OSHA enforces the anti-retaliation provisions of 22 statutes related to occupational, financial, energy, environmental, transportation and consumer safety. Under the pilot program, which went into effect on Aug. 1 in OSHA Region 9, whistleblowers may be able to obtain a faster determination by using the quicker review process without relinquishing their rights to a hearing.

When a complainant requests faster processing, the case will be appraised for the following criteria:

  • The claim is filed under a statute that permits an administrative law judge’s review, in which an appellate court acts as if the question is being considered for the first time.
  • Based on the applicable statute, it has been 30 or 60 days since the complainant filed the claim with OSHA.
  • The complainant has been interviewed by OSHA.
  • Federal investigators have assessed the complaint and complainant’s interview to check for a retaliation claim’s basic components.
  • The complainant and respondent have been able to provide written responses, meet with an OSHA investigator and submit witness statements.
  • The complainant has a copy of the respondent’s submissions and has been able to reply.

If the case meets these criteria, OSHA officials will determine whether reasonable cause exists to support that a statute was violated. OSHA officials will then take one of three actions: dismiss the claim and instruct the complainant of the right to go before an administrative law judge, provide merit findings as soon as possible, or deny the request.

Administrative law judges and OSHA may decide on the same solution, such as back pay, attorneys’ fees and reinstatement. “The ultimate goal is to bring about quicker resolution for whistleblowers and their employers regarding claims of retaliation for reporting safety and other concerns on the job,” Barbara Goto, OSHA regional administrator in San Francisco, said in a press release.

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