• OSHA Launches Online System For Whistleblower Complaints
  • July 15, 2014 | Author: Kimberly M. James
  • Law Firm: McGlinchey Stafford - Houston Office
  • In December 5, 2013, OSHA rolled out a new, web-based tool that allows potential whistleblowers to submit their complaints to OSHA directly on-line. David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor, stated in a press release “[t]he ability of workers to speak out and exercise their rights without fear of retaliation provides the backbone for some of American workers’ most essential protections. Whistleblower laws protect not only workers, but also the public at large and now workers will have an additional avenue available to file a complaint with OSHA.” Online filing of complaints facilitates workers’ ability to exercise this right.

    Online filing is intended to streamline the filing process, and to encourage anonymous employees or whistleblowers to report violations. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) stated in its press release, “complaints filed using the new online system are automatically routed to the appropriate regional office for investigation.” Normal rules for filing complaints still apply, such as deadlines that span from 30 to 180 days, depending on the complaint.

    The online form prompts employees to select from a set of choices to glean basic information about the complaint(s). Online complaints are treated the same as complaints that are filed using the paper system. The online form is identical to the paper version and requires the same information from whistleblowers to initiate an OSHA investigation. Once the complaint is filed, OSHA investigators will then follow up by contacting the whistleblower to obtain more detailed information, and then conducting its investigation.

    OSHA has investigatory authority for the whistleblower provisions of 22 separate statutes. After it completes its investigation, OSHA issues findings, which may then be reviewed by the DOL’s Office of Administrative Law Judges, Administrative Review Board, and the Federal Courts of Appeals.

    According to OSHA, filing a complaint using this new system is faster and more efficient. OSHA anticipates an increase in filings due to the ease and convenience of online filing. Increased funding in the whistleblower division has been made in anticipation of increased filings.