Report: Whistleblowers left in the cold

Published on February 27, 2009

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Report: Whistleblowers left in the cold

Most who report retaliation don’t get help or protection.
Friday, Feb. 27, 2009. Workplace whistleblowers have little to protect them from retaliation by employers, according to a new study by Congress’ investigative arm.
In a report issued Thursday, the Government Accountability Office found that inadequate resources and poor tracking of complaints have left most whistleblowers unable to get federal help. Only one in five complaints from whistleblowers is successful.

“OSHA faces two key challenges – it lacks a mechanism to adequately ensure the quality and consistency of investigations, and many investigators have said they lack some of the resources they need to do their jobs,” the GAO found.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is responsible for investigating a wide spectrum of whistleblower claims, including those related to workplace safety and corporate fraud.

In a story last year, the Observer reported that most of the more than 1,000 workers who file federal whistleblower complaints each year get no satisfaction.

Federal laws prohibit employers from retaliating against workers who alert authorities to health and safety problems on the job. Under the law, however, those who face such retribution have just 30 days to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor. Many workers don’t learn of their whistleblower rights that quickly, experts say.

“While a handful are lauded in the press for their actions, most whistleblowers face a lifetime of hardship for their willingness to speak up,” said U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., who chairs the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. “This is unacceptable.”

By Ames Alexander, Charlotte Observer

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