The number of whistleblower complaints reported by employees to federal agencies has spiked in the past five years, yet, the number of investigators on staff has declined. Whistleblower complaints have risen 29 percent since 2014, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that the agency is currently operating with 24 percent fewer staff charged with investigating complaints. OSHA’s whistleblower program enforces and investigates 22 federal laws covering a wide variety of workplace health, safety, transportation, and consumer areas. The laws provide a specific process for reporting violations and protect whistleblowers. Workers who report violations are protected from discrimination and retaliation for exercising this right.
Repercussions of Fewer Investigations
The recent numbers reported by OSHA tell the story of more employees reporting violations, yet fewer cases were investigated over the past five years. The number of complaints rose from 7,408 in fiscal year 2014 to 9,566 in fiscal year 2018. During this time, the investigative staff was reduced from 100 to 76 employees. OSHA’s whistleblower protection division is not the only sector of the agency that had a significant staff decline. OSHA safety and health inspectors have fallen to 12 percent from 2014. These safety inspectors review various work-related occupational health and hazard concerns and enforce regulations. The reduction in staff is attributed to a lack of funding for the federal agency, which has not risen since 2015.
OSHA has been unable to meet the required timing to investigate cases, which is 90 days under the regulation. In 2018, the average time for a case was 272 days. OSHA has also opened fewer cases than any year since 2013, meaning employees and employers have longer wait times for decisions.
The decline in investigations and staffing for the agency represents a troubling trend that is affecting workers’ safety and health. Employees who follow the required timeframe and procedures under the regulation may have to resort to filing a lawsuit. For a whistleblower who depends on their job for their livelihood, the delay and decline in whistleblower investigations can have stressful and significant personal and financial repercussions that no worker should experience.
Cherry Hill Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Protect Whistleblowers from Discrimination and Retaliation
If you experienced discrimination or retaliation in the workplace by an employer for exercising your rights under whistleblower protections, consult a Cherry Hill employment lawyer at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Please contact us for a free consultation via our online form or call us at 215-569-1999. Located in Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Cherry Hill.