OSHA Whistleblower Pilot Program Fights Retaliation

Pilot program works to increase OSHA efficiency and fight against claims retaliation. To better protect employee rights, companies must set strict anti-retaliation policies and promote workplace safety.

Creating a hazard-free environment aids in workers’ compensation cost containment, and doing so is also a legal requirement for employers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, companies must provide a safe place for individuals to complete their jobs. That requires eliminating serious hazards, properly maintaining all equipment, equipping workers with protective gear and conducting safety training.

Employees have the right to speak up if they think their company is violating these standards. If an employer treats a worker differently because he or she reported noncompliance, that individual can file a claim with OSHA. However, this process can prove lengthy, prolonging the time employees are subjected to discrimination. Fortunately, a new pilot program for whistleblower complaints aims to hasten this course of action.

About the new pilot program
According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA rolled out the “Expedited Case Processing Pilot” program on Aug. 1, 2016, allowing certain complainants to request the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges to take over investigations. While this would speed up claims processes, it requires that the case meet certain criteria.

This pilot program applies to 22 statutes that protect individuals who report violations regarding anything from worker safety to health care reform. The program currently applies to workers in California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii. Employees in the islands of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam can also participate.

Anti-retaliation in the workplace
This pilot program works not only for OSHA to increase efficiency but to also fight against claims retaliation. As the U.S. Department of Labor explained, an employer is not allowed to take adverse action against an individual for filing a claim. That means a company cannot demote, reduce pay, cut back on hours, discipline, deny benefits to or make threats against someone.

Retaliation is illegal for more than just OSHA-specific claims. The same rules apply to issues that fall under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission like sexual harassment or age discrimination. While taking unwarranted adverse action has detrimental consequences for workplace morale, the practice has been on the rise in recent years. According to the EEOC, instances of retaliation went up 5 percent between fiscal year 2014 and 2015.

To better protect employee rights, companies must set strict anti-retaliation policies and promote workplace safety.