OSHA Publishes Interim Final Rule on Whistleblower Procedures

The May 28 Federal Register includes an interim final rule establishing procedures for the handling of whistleblower complaints under the Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act of 2002, also known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. OSHA is seeking comments from the public.

The law was enacted July 30, 2002, to protect employees in publicly traded companies and their contractors, subcontractors or agents from retaliation for providing information that an employee believes is a violation of a Securities and Exchange Commission rule or other federal law relating to fraud against shareholders.

"OSHA has a great deal of experience in administering whistleblower regulations that enable workers to do the right thing and speak out on other issues without fear of retaliation," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "We want to hear from organizations and individuals about this important issue to make sure that our procedures continue to contribute to that environment."

Saying whistleblower protection is an important part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao commented, "The whistleblower protection provision of Sarbanes-Oxley will protect workers who have the courage to speak out against corporate abuse and fraud and it should be an effective measure to encourage corporations to conduct themselves in an ethical fashion."

The rule establishes procedures for the expeditious handling of discrimination complaints made by employees, or by representatives acting on their behalf. Procedures for submitting complaints under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, investigations and issuance of findings and preliminary orders are included in the preliminary rule. A major part of the rule details litigation procedures and how someone can object to the findings and request a hearing. The final section of the rule discusses miscellaneous provisions including withdrawals of complaints and settlements, plus judicial review and judicial enforcement.

Anyone wishing to comment on the interim final rule should submit written comments no later than July 28 to: OSHA Docket Office, Docket C-09, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-2625, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20210. Comments may also be submitted via fax by calling (202) 693-1861, or electronically to ecomments.osha.gov.

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