Wyatt Employment Law Report


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Whistleblowers Can Now File Complaints Online With OSHA

By Edwin S. Hopson

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently announced that whistleblowers covered by any one of 22 statutes administered by OSHA can now file complaints with the agency online.

“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 protections,” said OSHA Director Dr. David Michaels in an agency press release. “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.”

Currently, employees can make complaints to OSHA by filing a written complaint or by calling the agency’s 800 number or by calling an OSHA regional or area office. With this change, employees can now electronically submit a whistleblower complaint to OSHA by visiting www.osha.gov/whistleblower/WBComplaint.html.

The new online form prompts the worker to include basic whistleblower complaint information so they can be easily contacted for follow-up. Complaints are automatically routed to the appropriate regional whistleblower investigators. In addition, the complaint form can also be downloaded and submitted to the agency in hard-copy format by fax, mail or hand-delivery. The paper version is identical to the electronic version and requests the same information necessary to initiate a whistleblower investigation.

The whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protect employees who report violations of various securities laws, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, public transportation, workplace safety and health, and consumer protection laws.


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NPR Reports that House Seeks Major Cut in OSHA’s Current Budget

By Edwin S. Hopson

On March 1, 2011, National Public Radio reported on its website that Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are trying to cut about $99 million in federal spending in the current fiscal year from the budget for the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).  According to OSHA Administrator David Michaels, the proposed a 20% cut as applied to the remaining months of the fiscal year ending September 30, 2011, actually amounts to a 40% reduction in OSHA’s budget for the period covered.  Michael’s says this would have a devastating effect on his agency’s activities during the next 6-7 months.

House Republicans have claimed that OSHA’s recent stepped enforcement activities threaten jobs and focuses too much on “punishment [rather] than prevention.”  At a recent hearing on the issue, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, Michigan Republican Tim Walberg, questioned the agency’s priorities.

NPR quotes OSHA Administrator Michaels as countering with:  “[w]e know that OSHA doesn’t kill jobs. It stops jobs from killing workers. When employers embrace safety, they actually save money.”

Peg Seminario, the safety and health director of the AFL-CIO, is also quoted by NPR: “[w]e now have a much bigger workforce than we had 40 years ago when OSHA was started.  But they would propose to slash the agency, slash enforcement, slash standards-setting, leaving the agency essentially crippled and unable to do its job to protect workers.”

The U.S. Senate now has to take up the House-passed cuts and, along with the President, has to come to some agreement with the House to avoid a government shutdown.