Whistleblowers provide a critical service to the American public when they report evidence of waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, and other wrongdoing. As a result, numerous federal agencies have passed many whistleblower laws, including the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
You have legal options if you think your employer engaged in fraud or some other illicit activity involving OSHA. Contact the OSHA whistleblower and False Claims Act (FCA) attorneys at Nix Patterson today to learn more.
OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program is responsible for enforcing approximately 20 federal statutes that protect workers from retaliation. As a result, employees reporting concerns about workplace hazards and job safety and health violations cannot suffer retaliation.
The Whistleblower Protection Program protects workers from engaging in protected whistleblower activities in aviation, railroads, maritime, securities, tax, antitrust, food safety, consumer products, finance, and the environment. Some of the federal whistleblower laws that OSHA enforces are:
- Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010
- Clear Air Act
- Energy Reorganization Act
- Federal Railroad Safety Act
- Taxpayer First Act
- Federal Water Pollution Control Act
- Safe Drinking Water Act
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act
- Solid Waste Disposal Act
- Toxic Substances Control Act
OSHA’s whistleblower regulations protect you from retaliation for reporting violations or illicit activities. Retaliation is an adverse action against you because of whistleblower-related activity protected by one of the above laws. There are many types of retaliation, such as:
- Job termination
- Unfair disciplinary actions
- Threatening your job
- Reducing hours or pay
- Constructive discharge
- Reporting you to immigration or law enforcement
- Isolation, ostracization, and mocking
Workers who think their employers engaged in retaliation because they “blew the whistle” should speak to OSHA immediately. It’s essential to file a complaint before the statute of limitations expires.
You may file an OSHA complaint by contacting your local office in person or by phone. Also, you can send a written complaint to your nearest OSHA office or file the OSHA complaint online.
If the allegation is convincing enough to begin an investigation, a whistleblower investigator within OSHA will be assigned to the case. This individual is a neutral fact-finder who does not represent you or the organization. The investigator will inform you, the respondent, and the correct federal agency that OSHA started an investigation.
The OSHA investigator will inform their supervisor if enough evidence suggests a reasonable cause that the respondent violated a specific whistleblower statute. If that is the case, OSHA will issue the finding letter to you and list potential retaliation remedies, if needed.
Remember that a whistleblower investigation may take months. Both parties can settle the matter at any time via the agency’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program, through an assigned investigator, or with the help of your whistleblower attorney.
As an OSHA whistleblower, you could be eligible for compensation when you offer timely, original, and credible information that results in a successful enforcement action. Awards in an OSHA whistleblower case can result in 10%-30% of the funds collected if the sanctions are more than $1 million. While OSHA provides many ways for workers to report violations, it is recommended to enlist the assistance of an OSHA whistleblower attorney to assist with the case.
The Department of Labor (DOL) filed a whistleblower lawsuit recently against Midvale Paper Box, Co., and its owner. As a result, an employee was fired for bringing safety concerns to the attention of a manager, including asking multiple times for safety gloves to run the shredder and baler.
In October 2017, a compliance officer from OSHA visited the company for a safety audit. The company, Midvale, had not given their workers PPE and did not conduct the required tagout and lockout procedures. Unfortunately, an employee suffered a hand injury.
After the employee reported the violation, they filed an OSHA complaint that led to the decision that Midvale and the owner had violated Section 11(c)(1) of the OSHA Act when they fired the worker for participating in protected activities. As a result, the company owner had to reinstate the employee and pay them for lost wages.
OSHA Regional Administrator Michael Rivera said of the case: “Employers who retaliate against workers for raising valid safety concerns are breaking the law and creating an unsafe work environment for all of their workers.” He added that workers have a right to a safe workplace and should never fear that reporting their concerns will result in termination.
If you suspect or know that your employer or another party is attempting to commit fraud or other illicit activity against OSHA, contact our OSHA whistleblower and FCA attorneys at Nix Patterson. Our attorneys can assist with all types of whistleblower and FCA claims with complete confidentiality.