Exxon Whistleblower Case to Determine Ability of Corporate Whistleblowers to be Preliminarily Reinstated
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals is currently deciding whether a court can enforce orders that call for the return of whistleblowers to their jobs while their cases move forward. This case is critical because it will determine whether whistleblowers have a way to protect themselves from retaliation.
The case involves two scientists who worked at Exxon Mobil. The scientists raised concerns about a financial disclosure filed by Exxon, which included higher projections for oil output at the company’s drilling sites in Texas and New Mexico. The scientists believed there was no proof to support this increase and that the higher projection intended to boost Exxon’s public filings. Exxon fired the scientists later that year, and the scientists believed it was because they had blown the whistle.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the matter and found that Exxon had fired the scientists in retaliation for whistleblowing. The Department of Labor (DOL) ordered Exxon to reinstate the scientists while the case progressed. However, Exxon refused to do so, and the issue went to court. The district court ruled it could not force Exxon to reinstate the scientists.
The National Whistleblower Center (NWC) believes that limiting the enforcement of preliminary reinstatement orders would harm whistleblowers and discourage people from speaking up in the future. The NWC argues that Congress created laws to protect whistleblowers, and the court should uphold the intent of these laws.
The Department of Labor and OSHA oversees the enforcement of these laws and others that protect whistleblowers.