Friday, May 07, 2010

Does Whistleblower Law Protect Workers?

Forum Asks: Does Whistleblower Law Protect Workers?
by Mike Hall
May 7, 2010

What happens to a private-sector worker who blows the whistle on unethical, discriminatory, unsafe and even sometimes downright illegal actions in the workplace? Federal law is supposed to protect the worker from retaliation. But is that law protecting workers from demotions, dismissals, transfers, pay cuts and other management backlashes?

David Michaels, head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the agency in charge of enforcing the Whistleblower Protection Program...

Some recent whistleblower cases have grabbed headlines. But are they the rule or the exception?

* Last month, OSHA ordered New Jersey Transit to pay more than $500,000 for retaliating against a worker who reported a work-related illness.
* In March, OSHA ordered Tennessee Commerce Bank in Nashville, Tenn., to pay more than $1 million and reinstate a former corporate officer who raised concerns about internal controls.
* In December, U.S. Marshals seized a vehicle from the president of Brocon Petroleum in Freehold, N.Y. to satisfy a consent judgment in favor of a worker who triggered an inspection and suffered retaliation.

Michaels will address the way the law is being enforced, problems and strategies for improving worker protections. This is the second of a series of PftPI forums. April’s inaugural forum explored patient care issues.

PftPI, formed last year, brings together 19 national and global organizations around a common focus: defending professional integrity against external pressures in the interests of the public. The organizations include eight professional associations; 10 national unions; and the DPE, which collectively represent millions of professionals in disciplines from the sciences and engineering to human services.

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