A newly introduced bill extends whistleblower protections to workers in the offshore oil and gas industry, protecting them from retaliation for blowing the whistle on misconduct by their employer. Representative Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) introduced the Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act on December 2.
“As my district is home to several oil refineries, our community knows firsthand the tragic impact of preventable accidents,” DeSaulnier told WNN. “We can’t stand by and watch one more person die for fear of being fired for reporting a problem. Whether on land or at sea, we must do everything possible to protect the safety, health, and livelihood of our workers, which is why I have authored the Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act that would ensure workers can report safety violations and other serious problems without fear of retaliation from their employer.”
“These protections to oil and gas whistleblowers are critical,” said Siri Nelson, the Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center (NWC). “NWC commends Congressman DeSaulner for being proactive on this issue and urges the house to swiftly pass H.R. 9403 to ensure accountability in the energy sector.”
The Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act prohibits employers from discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee that provides information to their employer or the government about a possible violation of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCS Lands Act).
The bill also protects employees from facing retaliation for refusing to carry out work duties that they reasonably believe would violate the OSCS Lands Act or could cause injury or an oil spill to the environment.
Under the bill, a whistleblower has 180 days to report a retaliatory act to the Department of Labor (DOL), which will then investigate the matter and issue a ruling. However, if the DOL does not issue a ruling within 330 days of the complaint, the whistleblower may pursue their case in district court. The bill also allows whistleblowers to appeal DOL rulings and pursue the case in the U.S. Court of Appeals.
A whistleblower who wins their case under the Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act may be reinstated, receive double back pay, have any reprimands or poor performance reviews related to their whistleblowing expunged from the record, and receive reimbursement of litigation costs.
Within the DOL, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Whistleblower Protection Program enforces 25 whistleblower statutes which protect employees in a wide-range of sectors, from nuclear energy to the railroad industry. The program has recently held a series of public meetings on its whistleblower program, which has faced scrutiny for long investigative delays.