The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will hold a public meeting on October 13 to solicit feedback on OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.
OSHA aims “to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers,” according to its website. The agency’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of 25 whistleblower statutes.
This upcoming virtual meeting is “the eighth in a series of meetings on how the agency can improve the whistleblower program,” according to the news release announcing the public meeting. The meeting will be held virtually from 2pm to 5pm EDT on October 13. If interested, individuals can register in English or Spanish by October 6 (view the news release in Spanish here). Registration to attend the meeting is free.
According to the news release, OSHA is seeking comments on how the agency can “deliver better whistleblower customer service,” how OSHA can better “explain the agency’s whistleblower laws to employees and employers,” and steps the agency can take “to ensure that workers are protected from retaliation for raising concerns related to the pandemic.” Individuals can submit online comments at https://www.regulations.gov.
The Federal Register notice for the public meeting states that the agency is looking for suggestions “particularly where migrant and other vulnerable workers are concerned.” The notice also reminds attendees that “the agency does not have the authority to change the statutory language and requirements of the laws it enforces.”
According to the notice, “OSHA will contact each participant prior to the meeting to inform them of the speaking order. We will provide Spanish language translation.” On the notice webpage, individuals can also see public comments that have been submitted so far.
OSHA held a public meeting on October 13, 2020: according to previous WNN reporting, comments and suggestions for the Whistleblower Protection Program came from “compliance officers to industry professionals and managers to whistleblowers themselves.” Some callers said it would be helpful for OSHA to increase information about OSHA whistleblower laws and past whistleblower cases that managers and employees could access. One whistleblower brought up that having whistleblower rights under the law differed from feeling empowered and able to speak up.
In the 2020 public meeting, several contributors also mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic. The interest in discussing coronavirus-related challenges to compliance and the workplace might reflect this meeting’s third prompt, which directly mentions COVID-19 whistleblowers. Additionally, data from OSHA shows that in the 2020 fiscal year, the Whistleblower Protection Program “received a record number of whistleblower retaliation complaints.”