Case(s) Dismissed

RELATED – NBC News reports: a former OSHA federal whistleblower investigator who told members of the media about  problems in the Whistleblower Protection Program says that OSHA has fired him in retaliation   – story/video news report here

OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program Draws CriticismOSHA logo

The government agency program designed to protect whistleblowers has reportedly fallen short on a majority of occasions, according to a new report by NBC with sources inside OSHA itself.

The Whistleblower Protection Program, controlled by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), was originally designed to protect American workers from potential retaliation if they decide to report illegal activity or health concerns. The program defends workers in 22 different sectors including the airline, pipeline and environmental industries. But recent criticisms have found that it oftentimes fails to live up to its intentions.

Tom Devine is the legal director of the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Washington D.C. He has helped thousands of whistleblowers defend themselves against retaliation and testified before Congress to help pass national whistleblower laws. As part of his work, Devine monitors whistleblower programs throughout the federal government.

“OSHA’s track record is unsurpassed as the lowest common denominator for whistleblower protection in the executive branch,” Devine said to NBC Bay Area. “It’s an agency we warn whistleblowers about.”

NBC’s Bay Area Investigate Unit began dissecting the practices of OSHA in February earlier this year, using Darrell Whitman, a whistleblower investigator in OSHA’s Region 9 office, as an inside source. Whitman, specifically referencing the figures of Region 9 (California, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii), revealed that managers pressured investigators to close cases without proper review and dismissed complaints even when Whitman found they had merit. He called it “systematic dysfunction within the agency”. Here are some of the figures presented:

The agency awarded merit to just 2.8 percent of all whistleblower complaints from 2009 to 2014 in Region 9. Whitman called that percentage “unacceptable”.

The results revealed are consistent nationwide.

An analysis of complaint outcomes in all ten OSHA regions from 2004 to 2014 found:

  • OSHA awarded merit to 1.8 percent of cases.
  • The agency did not issue a single finding of merit in seven of the 22 industries protected by whistleblower laws. They include laws related to health insurance, asbestos in schools, consumer products, food distribution, cargo containers, maritime safety and public transit.
  • Nearly 22 percent of cases resulted in settlements. OSHA considers those outcomes favorable to complainants.
  • OSHA dismissed 59 percent of whistleblower cases, which account for the majority of cases OSHA investigated.
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