A proposal making it easier for whistle-blowers to file complaints recently passed a significant hurdle when the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs approved an online retaliation complaint form.
The form will allow workers to electronically submit retaliation complaints under any of the 22 whistle-blower statutes overseen by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Presently, OSHA accepts whistle-blower complaints from workers orally or in writing.
When OSHA proposed the form in the Jan. 17, 2013, Federal Register, it said the form “will enable workers to electronically submit whistleblower complaints directly to OSHA 24-hours a day, which will provide workers with greater flexibility for meeting statutory filing deadlines.”
“I shudder to think of how many complaints we’d receive if more people knew their rights and had more time to file their grievance,” David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, quipped at a recent public meeting.
Additionally, OSHA pointed out that an online form would streamline the agency’s electronic complaint filing process, reduce the complaint-processing time and improve the quality of customer service.
It is not yet known when the form will be available on OSHA’s website.
“It’s unclear from OSHA’s case-tracking statistics why the agency perceives a need for relaxed case-filing procedures,” commented Christopher Humber, a shareholder in the Washington, D.C., office of Ogletree Deakins. The number of whistle-blower cases completed by OSHA rose from 1,947 in 2011 to 2,764 in 2012.
But there’s been no commensurate improvement in the quality of the cases filed, Humber noted. “The number of merit determinations actually decreased from 48 in 2011 to 45 in 2012, and the number of dismissed cases rose from 1,108 in 2011 to 1,660 in 2012. If anything, online filing promises to increase the burden on investigators already suffering under excessive caseloads.”
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.
Whistle-Blower Rule Changes Follow Record Cases in 2012, SHRM Online Safety & Security, February 2013
SHRM Online Safety & Security pageKeep up with the latest Safety & Security HR news