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Alert: Administration Solicits Whistleblowers

On December 5, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor announced the launching of a new online form to make it easier for workers to file a whistleblower complaint with OSHA. OSHA is the federal agency that enforces the whistleblower provisions designed to protect employees who report alleged violations of 22 different federal statutes that regulate securities, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, public transport, workplace safety and health, and consumer protection. Detailed information on the rights of whistleblowers, including Fact Sheets and instructions on how to submit the new complaint form, are available on the new OSHA site, www.whistleblowers.gov.

While many think of OSHA as only having enforcement authority over workplace health and safety problems, this federal agency has now been given broad investigatory and enforcement powers in a broad range of areas that have nothing to do with “OSHA violations.” For example, given the controversy surrounding the Affordable Care Act, it is only a matter of time before there will be a slew of whistleblower claims alleging retaliation. Without doubt, whistleblower claims and general workplace retaliation claims filed with other federal agencies such as the EEOC continue to rise and present some of the most challenging personnel problems to management. This DOL announcement is yet another reminder to all companies to review their internal complaint processes and ensure that they are effective and encourage employees to come forward internally with their concerns. The development of a corporate culture of compliance that promptly and effectively responds to complaints when they arise is now a must.

For more information about the development of appropriate corporate governance procedures, whistleblower protection laws, or representation in response to a whistleblower claim, please contact W. David Paxton or any of the attorneys in our Employment or Criminal and Government Investigations practice groups.

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