WASHINGTON, D.C. | April 23, 2020 — In a new guidance memo to Congress, The National Whistleblower Center (NWC) has outlined reforms needed to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) whistleblower protection legislation to protect those bringing forward evidence of workplace safety violations. OSHA whistleblower protections lag behind many of the crucial protections that safeguard other whistleblowers. Due to the recent influx of complaints to OSHA regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the failure of OSHA to address this influx, as reported by the Washington Post, stronger protections are urgently needed.
John Kostyack, Executive Director of NWC, said: “Our front-line workers – who risk their lives treating patients, bringing us food and delivering other essential services – deserve much better protection from the coronavirus than they are currently getting. To protect them as well as the communities in which they live and serve, we must guarantee them that their concerns about safety will be heard and that they will not be retaliated against. Congress must protect our workers by enacting these OSHA reforms as quickly as possible.”
Stephen M. Kohn, NWC Board Chairman, stated: “OSHA’s whistleblower law is broken and must be fixed. It will not work for the vast majority of employees who expose safety violations due to COVID-19 contamination.” Kohn, who recently published a detailed analysis of the OSHA whistleblower law in the National Law Review, has worked on OSHA reform since 1986. “For years whistleblower advocates have tried reform OSHA so whistleblowers had a right to a pursue their cases if the DOL would not. Advocates have also tried to enlarge the current 30-day statute of limitations for filing a complaint. The time for these reforms is now,” Kohn added.
In the memo, NWC highlights the most urgently needed legislative reforms, including:
- A private right of action for employees to pursue their claims if the Department of Labor (DOL) declined to file a lawsuit in federal court on their behalf. Every whistleblower law passed since 1970 includes this provision;
- Extending the statute of limitations to report workplace safety violations from the current 30-days to 180-days;
- Modernizing the law to include the standard whistleblower protections that are now included in every whistleblower anti-retaliation law, including Auto Safety, Airline Safety, Transportation Safety, Mine Health and Safety, Food Safety, Sarbanes-Oxley act, Railroad Safety, Public Transportation Safety, Consumer Product Safety, Consumer Financial Protection, and most recently incorporated into the IRS whistleblower law in 2019.
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