Get access to the exclusive HR Resources you need to succeed in 2018.
Sign up for free email newsletters and get more SHRM content delivered to your inbox.
Is your employee handbook keeping up with the changing world of work? With SHRM's Employee Handbook Builder get peace of mind that your handbook is up-to-date.
Build competencies, establish credibility and advance your career—while earning PDCs—at SHRM Seminars in 14 cities across the U.S. this fall.
Gain the skills you need to rise to the next level in your career. Jon us at SHRM's Leadership Development Forum, October 2-3 in Boston.
Members may download one copy of our sample forms and templates for your personal use within your organization. Please note that all such forms and policies should be reviewed by your legal counsel for compliance with applicable law, and should be modified to suit your organization’s culture, industry, and practices. Neither members nor non-members may reproduce such samples in any other way (e.g., to republish in a book or use for a commercial purpose) without SHRM’s permission. To request permission for specific items, click on the “reuse permissions” button on the page where you find the item.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set a record for the number of whistle-blower cases it investigated in fiscal year (FY) 2014.
According to the agency, it accepted 3,060 cases during the year, which is 91 cases (3 percent) more than in FY 2013. OSHA had never broken the 3,000 mark before. By contrast, in 2005, the number of cases was 1,934. OSHA administers the whistle-blower provisions of 22 federal statutes.
The increased caseload could be the result of OSHA’s introduction of online filing for whistle-blower complaints in late 2013. Investigations were temporarily halted during the 16-day federal government shutdown in October 2013, the first month of FY 2014.
OSH Cases Dominate
Safety-related cases claimed by workers citing the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act accounted for 57 percent (1,729) of the total whistle-blower cases, about the same as in 2013.
Rounding out the top three types of cases were 463 brought under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) and 351 under the Federal Railroad Safety Act. The numbers represented an increase of 95 and four, respectively, over FY 2013.
The uptick in STAA cases may be the result of a 2014 memorandum of understanding between OSHA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in which the agencies agreed to share information with the complainant and each other.
Three-Fourths of Cases Dismissed, Withdrawn
OSHA completed 3,147 cases in FY 2014. The agency made determinations on 3,271 complaints, with some cases having multiple determinations.
Of the determinations, 51 percent (1,652) of the cases were dismissed by OSHA and 22 percent (710) were withdrawn by the complainant.
Settlements between the employer and worker were reached in 24 percent (746) of the complaints.
Three percent of the cases (99) were withdrawn by the complainant and refiled in federal court.
Two percent (64) of the complaints were given a “merit” determination, meaning that when a worker and employer couldn’t agree to a settlement, OSHA decided a judge should hear the complaint.
OSHA is working to lower the burden of proof in opening whistle-blower investigations from a “preponderance of the evidence” to a “reasonable cause,” OSHA administrator David Michaels told the agency’s Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee in September 2014. OSHA and the Office of the Solicitor of Labor are working on the policy change and it should be completed in 2015, he told the panel.
Michaels has also recommended that Congress extend the complaint filing deadline to 180 days instead of the current 30 days.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him @SHRMRoy
You have successfully saved this page as a bookmark.
Please confirm that you want to proceed with deleting bookmark.
You have successfully removed bookmark.
Please log in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please sign in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please purchase a SHRM membership before saving bookmarks.
An error has occurred
Recommended for you
SHRM Member Discounts Program
SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies