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Department of Labor Thanks The Employment Law Group® for its Input on the OSHA’s Whistleblower Program Restructuring Project

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In detailing its recent announcement of a major restructuring of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Office of the Whistleblower Protection Program, the U.S. Department of Labor thanked The Employment Law Group® for its input in the program restructuring project.

The acknowledgement came in a Department of Labor report entitled “OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program Review: Findings and Recommendations”. In the Acknowledgements section of the report, OSHA thanked The Employment Law Group® for “providing its thoughts and ideas on how to improve the program”.

The Department of Labor consulted with The Employment Law Group® and other outside stakeholders and requested their views on OSHA’s administration of its whistleblower program. The Department of Labor’s team assigned to the restructuring project met with R. Scott Oswald, managing principal of The Employment Law Group® on September 16, 2010 and Mr. Oswald shared his opinions regarding the state of the OSHA whistleblower program.

Among the observations and suggestions Oswald offered to the Department of Labor and listed in the restructuring report were the following:

  • Whistleblower investigators need to be trained and held accountable for their work
  • There is a level of hostility by some investigators
  • In some whistleblower investigations, decisions are made before the complainant or witness interviews take place. When interviews do take place, there are no probing questions
  • Within the whistleblower program and during investigations there is a lack of transparency within OSHA
  • Investigators are not fully testing the evidence
  • OSHA is not affording witnesses and employees the opportunity to speak with OSHA without the presence of management. This step would help keep interviews confidential
  • OSHA needs to form a greater partnership with the complainant’s attorneys
  • OSHA should emphasize early resolution of whistleblower complaints
  • Believe in mediation. Mediation should be mandatory
  • OSHA should create a national mediation office
  • OSHA creates roadblocks to access of information obtained during the investigation
  • General attitude by whistleblower investigators is how can they get the case off their desk
  • Investigators need training on conflict resolution
  • During the course of an investigation, if there are additional claims of adverse action, OSHA must amend the complaint and notify the respondent of the amendment
  • Under all the new statutes the burden of proof was changed from motivating to contributing, we find that investigators are either not trained on the difference, have not applied the difference or refuse to accept the difference
  • OSHA should provide investigators with annual legal training

The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice  representing employees who have been the victims of retaliation.

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