In keeping with its plans to strengthen agency efforts to investigate and enforce whistleblower complaints, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced that its Office of the Whistleblower Protection Program (OWPP) will now report directly to OSHA’s Office of the Assistant Secretary instead of to its Directorate of Enforcement Programs. This move is yet another signal that the agency intends to place a great deal of emphasis on enforcing the 21 whistleblower statutes over which it has jurisdiction. According to the announcement, the organizational change “represents a significantly elevated priority status for whistleblower enforcement, which now will be overseen directly by Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels, who heads OSHA.”
An assessment published last year by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program lacking. This report prompted an internal agency investigation of the whistleblower program, followed by an announcement in August 2011 that the program would undergo a major overhaul. The following month OSHA released an updated Whistleblower Investigations Manual (pdf) containing revised case handling procedures and information on new laws – including the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 and the Affordable Care Act – enacted since the last manual was issued. OSHA has also launched pilot projects “to evaluate structural changes in 10 field regions that could further strengthen the whistleblower program.” According to Michaels, “OSHA's internal improvement initiatives, including this realignment, demonstrate the agency's steadfast commitment to strengthening a program that is critically important to the protection of worker rights."
The amount of funding allocated to the whistleblower program supports these new efforts. The Department of Labor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 would provide a $5 million increase in OSHA’s funding for whistleblower enforcement.
According to OSHA’s announcement, Sandra Dillon, who had been serving as OWPP’s acting director since May 2011, will now serve as its director.
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