On Thursday Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced the first appointees to the newly established Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee (WPAC), a 15-member panel charged with determining and recommending ways to improve the fairness, efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's whistleblower protection program. Included among the inaugural committee members is Gregory Keating, Littler shareholder and co-chair of the firm’s Whistleblowing and Retaliation Practice Group. Keating was nominated for the position by Senator Mike Enzi, Ranking Member of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and Johnny Isakson, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety.
OSHA is responsible for enforcing the whistleblower provisions in 22 separate statutes, including the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), Affordable Care Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. In May 2012 the agency announced its intent to create the WPAC, which OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels hailed as a means to promote greater “transparency and accountability” of the agency’s administration of whistleblower protections.
Voting members of the WPAC include four management representatives, including Keating, as well as four labor representatives, three public representatives, and one individual representing OSHA state plans. The WPAC includes also three non-voting members representing federal agencies. WPAC members are appointed for two-year terms, and are scheduled to meet at least twice a year.
The WPAC’s first meeting will be held on Jan. 29, 2013, during which committee members will make recommendations “regarding the development and/or implementation of better customer service to workers and employers, improvement in the investigative and enforcement processes, improvement of regulations governing OSHA investigations, and recommendations for cooperative activities with federal agencies responsible for areas also covered by the whistleblower protection statutes enforced by OSHA.”
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