OSHA Issues Resource on Best Practices in Anti-Retaliation Programs

Author: Marta Moakley, XpertHR Legal Editor

January 18, 2017

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a resource to assist employers in creating workplaces in which workers feel comfortable voicing concerns without fear of retaliation. The newly released Recommended Practices for Anti-Retaliation Programs resource is advisory only, and does not interpret or create any legal obligations for public or private employers.

Whistleblower laws generally prohibit an employer from taking an adverse action (e.g., termination) against an employee for having engaged in a legally protected activity, such as filing a complaint with OSHA. Employers often implement anti-retaliation or whistleblower protection workplace policies and programs to ensure compliance.

OSHA's new resource lists five key elements of an effective anti-retaliation program:

  • Management leadership, commitment and accountability;
  • System for listening to and resolving employees' safety and compliance concerns;
  • System for receiving and responding to reports of retaliation;
  • Anti-retaliation training of employees and managers; and
  • Program oversight.

OSHA had released a draft version of the resource for public comment. The final version incorporates many of the over 3,700 comments received.

"These recommended practices will provide companies with the tools to create a robust anti-retaliation program," said Jordan Barab, Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. "In the long run, it's good for workers and good for business."

OSHA administers 22 whistleblower protection laws, including the anti-retaliation provisions of the OSH Act, as well as laws regulating securities (including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act), trucking, airline, nuclear power, rail, health care (including the Affordable Care Act) and consumer product safety laws. OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program processes employee complaints under these laws, which have a variety of filing requirements, ranging from 60 days to several years.