The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Whistleblower Protection Program allows employees to anonymously file complaints against employers for unsafe work environments. When employees file complaints, OSHA may decide to launch an investigation. Employees who file complaints with OSHA are protected from workplace retaliation. This includes blacklisting, firing, making threats, reducing pay or hours or denying benefits – just to name a few examples. OSHA is now issuing new guidelines on whistleblower settlement agreements between employees and employers. The new guidelines will prohibit settlements that discourage future whistleblowers.
How Will OSHA’s New Whistleblower Guidelines Work?
The new guidelines prohibit whistleblower settlement agreements with the following language.
- Whistleblower settlement agreements cannot contain provisions that restrict employees from filing future complaints with OSHA or other government agencies. The provision protects employees who are participating in investigations, testifying in proceedings or providing other miscellaneous information to the government.
- OSHA will not approve settlement agreements that require employees to waive their rights to a monetary award.
- Settlement agreements cannot require employees to notify employers before notifying OSHA or other government agencies.
- Employers cannot require employees to deny knowledge of illegal activities.
- OSHA will not approve settlements that require employees to pay disproportionate damages in the event they violate whistleblower settlement agreements.
Whistleblowers should not have to fear retaliation for notifying OSHA of workplace safety violations. Under these new guidelines, employers could have a more difficult time preventing employees from reporting violations. Perhaps these new guidelines can make workplaces safer.
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