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Whistleblower Statutes Administered by OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for investigating and making at least preliminary decisions on a number of whistleblower claims. Many whistleblower statutes have an administrative exhaustion requirement that forces whistleblowers to first file a complaint with OSHA, as a prerequisite to ever filing a lawsuit in federal court. Some whistleblower statutes also only permit a whistleblower to litigate his or her claims through the administrative process, without ever being able to bring a lawsuit in federal court. Consequently, it is imperative that whistleblowers who have suffered retaliation timely file their complaint with OSHA, since failure to file a complaint within the prescribed timelines will forfeit even a meritorious claim.

The following are the statutes covered by OSHA and their associated deadlines for filing a complaint:
• OSHA (generally) - 30 days
• Clean Air Act (CAA) – 30 days
• Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) - 30 days
• Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA)-30 days
• Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) – 30 days
• Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA) – 30 days
• Toxic Substances Act (TSCA) – 30 days
• International Safe Container Act (ISCA) – 60 days
• Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) – 90 days
• Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21) – 90 days
• Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) – 180 days
• Energy Reorganization Act (ERA) – 180 days
• Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) – 180 days
• Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (PSIA) – 180 days
• Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) – 180 days
• National Transit Systems Security Act (NTSSA) – 180 days
• Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) – 180 days
• Affordable Care Act (ACA) – 180 days
• Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 (CFPA) – 180 days
• Seaman’s Protection Act (SPA) – 180 days
• FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – 180 days

These deadlines are usually measured from the date that the whistleblower first suffers a retaliatory action in response to protected activity. While these deadlines may in some cases be extended in extraordinary circumstances, it is imperative that whistleblowers who have suffered retaliation file a complaint with OSHA as soon as possible.
Some examples of whistleblower retaliation are Discharge, Demotion, Reprimand, Harassment, Hostile Work Environment, Lay-off, Failure to Hire, Failure to Promote, Blacklisting, Failure to Recall, Transfer to Different Job, Change in Duties or Responsibilities, Denial of Overtime, Reduction in Pay, Denial of Benefits, Making a Threat, Intimidation, and Constructive Discharge (deliberately creating an environment so unpleasant that a reasonable person would feel compelled to resign).

KEYWORDS: OSHA; DOL; whistleblower; SOX; FRSA; STAA; AIR21; AIR-21; retaliation

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