OSHA Sets Up Pilot To Target Whistleblower Protection Violators


Faced with frequent employer retaliation against whistleblowing workers who expose job safety and health violations and other workplace hazards, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set up a pilot program in its Kansas City regional office to target the worst offenders in that group.

OSHA’s pilot program, which will cover Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska, plus Iowa firms under federal enforcement, will be “a severe violator enforcement program for employers that ‘continually and willfully’ disregard the rights of whistleblowers,” the agency said.

The Whistleblower-Severe Violator Enforcement Program (W-SVEP) “will be similar to its existing Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which includes employers that routinely ignore federal workplace safety and health regulations and mandates follow-up inspections to ensure compliance,” the agency added.

“W-SVEP will focus on employers that engage in egregious behavior and blatant retaliation against workers who report unsafe working conditions and violations of the law,” said acting Kansas City OSHA administrator Karena Lorek.

OSHA will decide which renegade firms will be whistleblower severe violators, for at least three years, using four criteria: All significant whistleblower cases; Cases worthy of either OSHA lawsuits or “egregious citations, a fatality, or a rate-based incentive program for work-related injuries;” A merit whistleblower case where the employer is already on the severe violator list; and a firm with at least three merit whistleblower cases in the past three years.

“We hope the pilot program will be the catalyst that causes companies to change their behavior and instill a culture that restores employee confidence and reshapes the employer’s perspective on whistleblowing,” Lorek added.