Senators Ask Tough Questions About OSHA's Whistleblower Program

A lot of attention has recently been focused on the performance (or lack thereof) of the IRS whistleblower program. The IRS's program, as well as a similar program in place at the SEC, typically garners the bulk of attention surrounding government whistleblower programs. However, the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also operates an important whistleblower program that deserves attention.

Two Senators, Charles Grassley from Iowa and Lamar Alexander from Tennessee, have sent a formal letter to the assistant secretary for OSHA asking for more information about how OSHA operates its program. The letter to David Michaels asks for an update regarding how OSHA's whistleblower program functions and its success rate.

OSHA is a large agency tasked with an important job of watching over the safety of tens of millions of American workers. In addition to monitoring job sites for health and safety violations, OSHA is also in charge of enforcing whistleblower provisions from more than 20 different federal laws. Given this incredible amount of work, Senators Grassley and Alexander want to be sure the organization is actually devoting time to the important whistleblower cases and not simply pushing them all to the back burner.

Over the last few years OSHA has made some serious changes to the way it manages its whistleblower program. In light of the changes, Grassley says he wants to know how they have worked to improve the situation for American workers and how the program is performing.

Previous reports by the Government Accountability Office and the Labor Department's own investigative body found that the OSHA whistleblower program suffered from some serious defects. Recently, OSHA has been criticized for not compiling enough data about whistleblower cases and success rates, with investigations faulting the agency for lack of internal assessment.

Perhaps to give OSHA a shove in the right direction, Grassley and Alexander are asking for such an assessment. They want to know specific numbers, including the current number of open whistleblower cases, the amount of lag time required to handle such cases and the overall cost of the program. The hope is that finding out this information will help the agency make changes in the future to ensure more efficient handling of important labor complaints.


Sens. Grassley, Alexander Probe Labor Dept. Whistleblower Program, by Rachel Louise Ensign, published at on April 29, 2014.

Grassley, Alexander Press for Update on Whistleblower Protections at OSHA, published at on April 29, 2014.

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