Whistleblower Protection



DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

[Graphic Omitted] SMALL BUSINESS HANDBOOK
Wage, Hour and Other Workplace Standards
Whistleblower Protection

Updated: November 1997

Employee Protection (Whistleblower) Provisions -- Clean Air Act
(42 USC §7622)
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act
(42 USC §9610)
Energy Reorganization Act of 1974
(42 USC §5851 as amended by Section 2902, P.L. 102-486 (106 Stat. 2776))
Safe Drinking Water Act
(42 USC §300j-9(I))
Solid Waste Disposal Act
(42 USC §6971)
Toxic Substance Control Act
(15 USC §2622)
Federal Water Pollution Control Act
(33 USC §1367); 29 CFR 24

Who is Covered

These environmental Acts provide protection from discharge or other discriminatory actions by employers in retaliation for employees' good faith complaints about safety and health hazards in the workplace and the environment.

Basic Provisions/Requirements

The employee protection provisions of these Acts prohibit employers from discharging or otherwise discriminating against employees in retaliation for their disclosure to the employer or to the appropriate federal agency of safety and health hazards. They also protect employee participation in formal government proceedings in connection with safety and health hazards. The Acts specifically exclude from protection the disclosure of hazards deliberately caused by an employee. Additionally, the statutes do not protect "frivolous" complaints. Employees have the right under the Acts to refuse to work in hazardous or unsafe situations.

Employees who believe they have been discriminated against in violation of these protective provisions may file a complaint, within 30 days of the alleged violation, with the Occupational Safey and Health Administration (OSHA).

Assistance Available

More detailed information, including copies of regulatory and interpretative materials, may be obtained by contacting your nearest OSHA offices .

Penalties

Upon receipt of a complaint, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducts an investigation to determine whether a violation has occurred. When a violation has occurred, the employer is notified of the violation determination and efforts are made to conciliate the situation. The employer may appeal a violation determination to an administrative law judge, if done within 5 calendar days of the notification of the determination. The administrative law judge's decision is referred to the Secretary of Labor for a final order. The Secretary may affirm or set aside the administrative law judge's decision. Where the Secretary concludes that a violation has occurred, his or her final order may instruct the employer to take affirmative action to abate the violation and provide for appropriate relief, which may include restoration of back pay, employment status and benefits. The Secretary may also order the employer to provide compensatory damages to the employee. If dissatisfied with the Secretary's decision, the employer may appeal in federal court. Final determinations on violations are enforceable through the courts. The employee is entitled to similar appeal rights under the Acts.

Relation to State, Local and Other Federal Laws

The whistleblower programs do not preempt existing state statutes and common law claims. All provisions contained in the programs are in addition to protection provided by state laws.


U.S. Department of Labor


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