The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has the power to enforce many whistleblower protection laws. This authority includes many laws, such as the Affordable Care Act, that might not seem to relate to the administration’s traditional role.
The laws OSHA enforces contain whistleblower anti-retaliation provisions. These laws generally provide that employers may not discharge or otherwise retaliate against an employee because the employee has filed a complaint or exercised any rights provided to employees. Each law requires that complaints be filed within a certain number of days after the alleged retaliation. Complaints may be filed orally or in writing.
The following list details the laws that OSHA enforces. Additional enforcement may be provided by state agencies and other authorities.
Consumer and Investor Protection Laws
Affordable Care Act. 29 U.S.C. §218C (ACA) Protects employees who report violations of any provision of title I of the ACA, including but not limited to discrimination based on an individual’s receipt of health insurance subsidies, the denial of coverage based on a preexisting condition, or an insurer’s failure to rebate a portion of an excess premium.
Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA). [12 U.S.C. §5567]. Employees are protected for blowing the whistle on reasonably perceived violations of any provision of the Title X of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act or any other provision of law that is subject to the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Consumer Financial, Protection, or any rule, order, standard, or prohibition prescribed by the Bureau.
Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). [18 U.S.C. §1514A] Protects employees of certain companies who report alleged mail, wire, bank or securities fraud; violations of the SEC rules and regulations; or violation of federal laws related to fraud against shareholders. The Act covers employees of publicly traded companies and their subsidiaries, as well as employees of nationally-recognized statistical rating organizations.
Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). [15 U.S.C. §2087] Protects employees who report to their employer, the federal government, or a state attorney general reasonably perceived violations of any statute or regulation within the jurisdiction of the Consumer Safety Product Safety Commission (CPSC). CPSIA covers employees of consumer product manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers, and private labelers.
FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) [21 U.S.C. 399d]. Protects employees of food manufacturers, distributors, packers, and transporters from reporting a violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or a regulation promulgated under the Act. Employees are also protected from retaliation for refusing to participate in a practice that violates the Act.
Occupational Environmental and Nuclear Safety Laws
Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA). [29 U.S.C. §660(c)]Section 11(c) provides protection for employees who exercise a variety of rights guaranteed under the Act, such as filing a safety and health complaint with OSHA, participating in an inspection, and other activities.
Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA). [15 U.S.C. §2651] Protects employees who report violations of the law relating to asbestos in public or private non-profit elementary and secondary school systems.
Clean Air Act (CAA). [42 U.S.C. §7622] Prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports violations regarding air emissions from area, stationary, and mobile sources.
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). [42 U.S.C. §9610] The “Superfund” law prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports alleged violations relating to cleanup of hazardous waste sites, as well as accidents, spills, and other emergency releases of pollutants and contaminants.
Energy Reorganization Act (ERA). [42 U.S.C. §5851] Prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports violations or refuses to engage in violations of the ERA or the Atomic Energy Act. Protected employees include employees of operators, contractors and subcontractors of nuclear power plants licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and employees of contractors working with the Department of Energy under a contract pursuant to the Atomic Energy Act.
Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA). [33 U.S.C. §1367] The Clean Water Act prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports alleged violations relating to discharge of pollutants into water.
Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA.) [42 U. S. C. §300j-9(i)] Prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports alleged violations relating to any waters actually or potentially designated for drinking.
Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA). [42 U.S.C. §6971] Prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports alleged violations relating to the disposal of solid and hazardous waste (including medical waste) at active and future facilities. This statute is also known as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). [15 U.S.C. §2622] Prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports alleged violations relating to industrial chemicals produced or imported into the United States, and supplements the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Toxic Release Inventory under Emergency Planning & Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA).
Transportation Industry Laws
Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA). [49 U.S.C §20109] Protects employees of railroad carriers and their contractors and subcontractors who report a hazardous safety or security condition, a violation of any federal law or regulation relating to railroad safety or security, or the abuse of public funds appropriated for railroad safety. In addition, the statute protects employees who refuse to work when confronted by a hazardous safety or security condition.
International Safe Container Act (ISCA) [46 U.S.C. §80507] Protects employees involved in international shipping who report to the Coast Guard the existence of an unsafe intermodal cargo container or another violation of the Act.
Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). [49 U.S.C. §30171] Prohibits retaliation by motor vehicle manufacturers, part suppliers, and dealerships against employees for providing information to the employer or the U.S. Department of Transportation about motor vehicle defects, noncompliance, or violations of the notification or reporting requirements enforced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or for engaging in related protected activities as set forth in the provision.
National Transit Systems Security Act (NTSSA). [6 U.S.C. §1142] Protects transit employees who report a hazardous safety or security condition, a violation of any federal law relating to public transportation agency safety, or the abuse of federal grants or other public funds appropriated for public transportation. The Act also protects public transit employees who refuse to work when confronted by a hazardous safety or security condition or refuse to violate a federal law related to public transportation safety.
Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (PSIA). [49 U.S.C. §60129] Protects employees who report violations of federal laws related to pipeline safety and security or who refuse to violate such laws.
Seaman’s Protection Act, 46 U.S.C. §2114 (SPA), as amended by §611 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, Public Law 111-281. Protects employees who report to the Coast Guard or another federal agency a violation of a maritime safety law or regulation. The Act also protects seamen who refuse to work when they reasonably believe an assigned task would result in serious injury or impairment of health to themselves, other seamen, or the public.
Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA). [49 U.S.C §31105] Protects truck drivers and other employees who refuse to violate regulations related to the safety of commercial motor vehicles or who report violations of those regulations.
Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21). [49 U.S.C. §42121]Protects employees of air carriers and contractors and subcontractors of air carriers who, among other things, report violations of laws related to aviation safety.