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OSHA Announces Restructuring of Whistleblower Program to Increase Priority Status of Whistleblower Enforcement

Last week, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a major restructuring of its Office of the Whistleblower Protection Program. As a result of the changes, the Program will now report directly to OSHA’s Office of the Assistant Secretary instead of to its Directorate of Enforcement Programs.

The result of this restructuring is that Assistant Secretary of Labor, Dr. David Michael – who heads OSHA – will directly oversee the whistleblower program. According to a press release issued by OSHA, the move indicates a “significantly elevated priority status for whistleblower enforcement.”

OSHA’s plan to restructure its whistleblower program follows a top-to-bottom review of the program that the agency completed in 2011. The review came as a response to audits by the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General which found problems with the program.

As part of the improvement plan, OSHA released an updated Whistleblower Investigations Manual last year, which had not been updated since 2003. The new manual contains updated information on procedures for handling cases and information on recently enacted laws. The plan also aims to add investigators and strengthen investigator training.

In addition to the restructuring at the national level, OSHA indicated that is has initiated pilot projects to evaluate structural changes in 10 OSHA field regions in an effort to further strengthen the whistleblower program.

According to Assistant Secretary 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” as “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.”

OSHA is responsible for enforcing the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, as well 20 other laws that offer protection to employees who report regulatory violations

The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice  representing employees who have been retaliated against for reporting hazardous work conditions.

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