OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program

whistleblower protection laws

With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to assure safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.

Occupational Safety and Health Association’s –OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of more than twenty whistleblower statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace safety and health laws pertaining to:

4,679 workers died on the job in 2014

  • airline,
  • commercial motor carrier,
  • consumer product,
  • environmental,
  • financial reform,
  • food safety,
  • health insurance reform,
  • motor vehicle safety,
  • nuclear,
  • pipeline,
  • public transportation agency,
  • railroad,
  • maritime, and
  • securities.

Rights afforded by these whistleblower protection laws include, but are not limited to, worker participation in safety and health activities, reporting a work-related injury, illness or fatality, or reporting a violation of the statutes.

The primary goal of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970 is to reduce workplace hazards and implement safety and health programs for both employers and their employees. To this end, the OSH Act and related regulations from OSHA give employees a number of rights, including the rights to:

  • get clear training and information in layman’s terms on the hazards of their workplace, ways to avoid harm, and applicable OSHA standards and laws;
  • obtain and review documentation on work-related illnesses and injuries at the job site;
  • confidentially make a complaint with OSHA to have an inspection of the workplace;
  • if desired, accompany and take part in a requested OSHA inspection of the workplace;
  • get copies of any tests done to measure workplace hazards (e.g. chemical, air, and similar testing);
  • not be discriminated or retaliated against for making OSHA-related complaints or inquiries.

prohibits employers from discriminating against employees for exercising their rights under the OSH Act

Section 11(c) of the OSH Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees for exercising their rights under the OSH Act. These rights include:

  • filing an OSHA complaint,
  • participating in an inspection or talking to an inspector,
  • seeking access to employer exposure and injury records,
  • reporting an injury, and
  • raising a safety or health complaint with the employer.

OSHA’s whistleblower protection authority has been expanded to protect workers from discrimination under twenty-two federal laws. Complaints must be reported to OSHA within set timeframes following the discriminatory action, as prescribed by each law. These laws, and the number of days employees have to file a complaint, are:

  1. Occupational, Environmental, and Nuclear Safety Laws
    • Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA). [29 U.S.C. §660(c)] Section 11(c) provides protection for employees who exercise a variety of rights guaranteed under the Act, such as filing a safety and health complaint with OSHA, participating in an inspection, etc. – OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 30 days.
    • Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA). [15 U.S.C. §2651] Protects employees who report violations of the law relating to asbestos in public or private non-profit elementary and secondary school systems. – OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 90 days.
    • Clean Air Act (CAA). [42 U.S.C. §7622] Prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports violations regarding air emissions from area, stationary, and mobile sources. – OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 30 days.
    • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). [42 U.S.C. §9610] a.k.a. “Superfund,” prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports alleged violations relating to cleanup of hazardous waste sites, as well as accidents, spills, and other emergency releases of pollutants and contaminants. – OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 30 days.
    • Energy Reorganization Act (ERA). [42 U.S.C. §5851] Prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports violations or refuses to engage in violations of the ERA or the Atomic Energy Act. Protected employees include employees of operators, contractors and subcontractors of nuclear power plants licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and employees of contractors working with the Department of Energy under a contract pursuant to the Atomic Energy Act. – OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 180 days.
    • Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA). [33 U.S.C. §1367] a.k.a. “Clean Water Act,” prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports alleged violations relating to discharge of pollutants into water. – OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 30 days.
    • Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA.) [42 U. S. C. §300j-9(i)] Prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports alleged violations relating to any waters actually or potentially designated for drinking. – OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 30 days.
    • Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA). [42 U.S.C. §6971] Prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports alleged violations relating to the disposal of solid and hazardous waste (including medical waste) at active and future facilities. This statute is also known as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. – OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 30 days.
    • Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). [15 U.S.C. §2622] Prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports alleged violations relating to industrial chemicals produced or imported into the United States, and supplements the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Toxic Release Inventory under Emergency Planning & Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). – OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 30 days.
  2. Transportation Industry Laws
    • Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA). [49 U.S.C §20109] Protects employees of railroad carriers and their contractors and subcontractors who report a hazardous safety or security condition, a violation of any federal law or regulation relating to railroad safety or security, or the abuse of public funds appropriated for railroad safety. In addition, the statute protects employees who refuse to work when confronted by a hazardous safety or security condition.- OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 180 days.
    • International Safe Container Act (ISCA) [46 U.S.C. §80507] Protects employees involved in international shipping who report to the Coast Guard the existence of an unsafe intermodal cargo container or another violation of the Act.- OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 60 days.
    • Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). [49 U.S.C. §30171] Prohibits retaliation by motor vehicle manufacturers, part suppliers, and dealerships against employees for providing information to the employer or the U.S. Department of Transportation about motor vehicle defects, noncompliance, or violations of the notification or reporting requirements enforced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or for engaging in related protected activities as set forth in the provision.- OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 180 days.
    • National Transit Systems Security Act (NTSSA). [6 U.S.C. §1142] Protects transit employees who report a hazardous safety or security condition, a violation of any federal law relating to public transportation agency safety, or the abuse of federal grants or other public funds appropriated for public transportation. The Act also protects public transit employees who refuse to work when confronted by a hazardous safety or security condition or refuse to violate a federal law related to public transportation safety.- OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 180 days.
    • Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (PSIA). [49 U.S.C. §60129] Protects employees who report violations of federal laws related to pipeline safety and security or who refuse to violate such laws.- OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 180 days.
    • Seaman’s Protection Act, 46 U.S.C. §2114 (SPA), as amended by §611 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, Public Law 111-281. Protects employees who report to the Coast Guard or another federal agency a violation of a maritime safety law or regulation. The Act also protects seamen who refuse to work when they reasonably believe an assigned task would result in serious injury or impairment of health to themselves, other seamen, or the public.- OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 180 days.
    • Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA). [49 U.S.C §31105] Protects truck drivers and other employees who refuse to violate regulations related to the safety of commercial motor vehicles or who report violations of those regulations. – OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 180 days.
    • Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21). [49 U.S.C. §42121] Protects employees of air carriers and contractors and subcontractors of air carriers who, among other things, report violations of laws related to aviation safety.- OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 90 days.
  3. Consumer and Investor Protection Laws
    • Affordable Care Act. 29 U.S.C. §218C (ACA) Protects employees who report violations of any provision of title I of the ACA, including but not limited to discrimination based on an individual’s receipt of health insurance subsidies, the denial of coverage based on a preexisting condition, or an insurer’s failure to rebate a portion of an excess premium.- OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 180 days.
    • Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA). [12 U.S.C. §5567] Employees are protected for blowing the whistle on reasonably perceived violations of any provision of the Title X of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act or any other provision of law that is subject to the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Consumer Financial, Protection, or any rule, order, standard, or prohibition prescribed by the Bureau.- OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 180 days.
    • Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). [18 U.S.C. §1514A] Protects employees of certain companies who report alleged mail, wire, bank or securities fraud; violations of the SEC rules and regulations; or violation of federal laws related to fraud against shareholders. The Act covers employees of publicly traded companies and their subsidiaries, as well as employees of nationally-recognized statistical rating organizations.- OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 180 days.
    • Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). [15 U.S.C. §2087] Protects employees who report to their employer, the federal government, or a state attorney general reasonably perceived violations of any statute or regulation within the jurisdiction of the Consumer Safety Product Safety Commission (CPSC). CPSIA covers employees of consumer product manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers, and private labelers. – OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 180 days.
    • FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) [21 U.S.C. 399d] Protects employees of food manufacturers, distributors, packers, and transporters from reporting a violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or a regulation promulgated under the Act. Employees are also protected from retaliation for refusing to participate in a practice that violates the Act.- OSHA Whistleblower Protection Complaint must be filed within 180 days.




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– For more information visit: http://www.whistleblowers.gov/