Job Loss Feared Despite Whistleblower Protection Program in North Carolina

The Whistleblower Protection Program is getting an overhaul, according to a recent press release from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Our workers’ compensation lawyers of Charlotte know that employees who report poor working conditions should do so without fear of retribution from their employer and have a right to be protected. More training is needed to ensure that workers are able to come forward with complaints without fearing their job is at risk. This new effort is a good first step.
“The ability of workers to speak out and exercise their legal rights without fear of retaliation is crucial to many of the legal protections and safeguards that all Americans value,” said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. “The new measures will significantly strengthen OSHA’s enforcement of the 21 whistleblower laws that Congress charged OSHA with administering.”

OSHA recently performed a head-to-toe internal review focusing on operational procedures, investigative processes, analyzed national and regional program structures and reviewed the budget, equipment and personnel issues. The internal report can be seen on OSHA’s website.

Concerns in OSHA’s whistleblower program regarding the audit program, internal communications, training for managers and investigators and issues with transparency and accountability were cited in audits by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) performed in 2009 and 2010.

“OSHA is committed to correcting the issues brought to light by the GAO report and our own review,” said Dr. Michaels.

Modifications to the Whistleblower Protection Program are outlined below:

Internal Systems
In order to handle complaints in an appropriate time frame changes were made to the audit program and the data collection system.

Investigator training sessions will be held year-round by OSHA to make sure supervisors and investigators get the mandatory training they need on a yearly basis. Federal and state whistleblower investigators will attend a national whistleblower training conference held in September hosted by OSHA.

Beginning in 2012, the whistleblower program will have a separate line item to keep track of their accomplishments and events. Currently OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program is housed in the Directorate of Enforcement. It will now report to the assistant secretary directly. Field structure changes are in the process of being tested and 25 new investigators have been added.

Program Policy
A new edition of the Whistleblower Investigations Manual will soon be released. The manual was in desperate need of updating since it hadn’t been done since 2003. The new version will now include modifications to current practices and any laws that have been enacted since 2003.

Congress enacted the whistleblower provision laws to prevent employers from retaliating against workers who express concerns or provide workplace safety deficiencies to the government or to the company. A worker who thinks they have been targeted by their company for providing information should file a complaint with the secretary of labor to open up an investigation by the Whistleblower Protection Program.

If you or someone you love has suffered an accident while working in North Carolina, contact the Lee Law Offices, P.A. today for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 1-800-887-1965.

More Blog Entries:

Employee Layoffs Can Often Lead to Employers Skimping on Safety, Increase in Work Injuries at North Carolina Job Sites, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, August 6, 2011

Parental Communication about Work Dangers Can Reduce Teen Injuries at Work in Charlotte, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, August 2, 2011

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