OSHA Gives Whistleblower Protection Higher Priority

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a major restructuring of its Office of the Whistleblower Protection Program. The program will now report directly to the agency's Office of the Assistant Secretary instead of to its Directorate of Enforcement Programs.

This move represents a significantly elevated priority status for whistleblower enforcement, which now will be overseen directly by Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels, who heads OSHA.

"The ability of workers to speak out and exercise their rights without fear of retaliation provides the backbone for some of American workers' most essential legal protections,” said Michaels. “OSHA's internal improvement initiatives, including this realignment, demonstrate the agency's steadfast commitment to strengthening a program that is critically important to the protection of worker rights.”
OSHA first announced that it would restructure its whistleblower program on Aug. 1, 2011, as part of the agency's multifaceted plan for strengthening the enforcement of 21 whistleblower laws under its jurisdiction. Implementation of this plan began with the fiscal year 2012 budget as OSHA established a separate budgetary line item for the whistleblower program to better track and hold accountable its activities and accomplishments.

In addition to the change at OSHA's national office, the agency has launched pilot projects to evaluate structural changes in 10 field regions that could further strengthen the whistleblower program.

Sandra Dillon, who has served as the acting director of OWPP since May 2011, will lead the Office of the Whistleblower Program as its director.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and 20 other statutes protecting employees who report alleged violations of various workplace, commercial motor vehicle, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, railroad, public transportation, maritime, consumer product, health care reform, corporate securities, food safety and consumer financial reform regulations.

Related Editorial:

OSHA Aims to Improve Whistleblower Protections

OSHA Fines Union Pacific $615,000 for Retaliating against Whistleblowers

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