Administration-supported whistleblower reform legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate.
The legislation calls for the reform of section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Changes include:
- Increasing the time for workers to file complaints from 30 days to 180 days;
- Including reporting unsafe conditions, injuries and illnesses as a protected activity;
- Setting firm deadlines for the Department of Labor (DOL) to complete the investigation;
- Allowing DOL to provide for reinstatement, back pay and damages without requiring the employee to go to court;
- Protecting workers who refuse to work in what they reasonably believe to be seriously dangerous conditions;
- Allowing workers, for the first time, to bring their own case to an administrative law judge if the DOL refuses to pursue the case;
- Providing DOL and employees additional authority to seek relief in federal courts when employers fail to comply with the department's decision in whistleblower cases.
OSHA has struggled with the lack of whistleblower protection for the past year.
"Adopting stronger whistleblower protection legislation can help reduce the hazards that cause injuries, illnesses and deaths," said Labor Secretary Alexis Herman on Workers' Memorial Day.