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Pick Your Jaw Up: OSHA Awards Merit to Just 1.8% of Whistleblower Cases


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Earlier this year we highlighted the failures of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s Whistleblower Protection Program, which is responsible for investigating claims of whistleblower retaliation in over 22 different sectors including the airline, pipeline, and environmental industries.  The piece focused on Darrell Whitman, a former investigator who is now himself a whistleblower, who was featured in an investigative report by Bay Area writers from NBC.  The same writers have expanded their work to show that the claims made by Whitman against OSHA District 9 pertain to the agency on a nationwide scale:

An analysis of complaint outcomes in all ten OSHA regions from 2004 to 2014 found:

• OSHA awarded merit to 1.8 percent of cases.
• The agency did not issue a single finding of merit in seven of the 22 industries protected by whistleblower laws. They include laws related to health insurance, asbestos in schools, consumer products, food distribution, cargo containers, maritime safety and public transit.
• Nearly 22 percent of cases resulted in settlements. OSHA considers those outcomes favorable to complainants.
• OSHA dismissed 59 percent of whistleblower cases, which account for the majority of cases OSHA investigated.

Whistleblower advocate Ted Devine called the numbers “obscene”:

The national track record ranges from 1.5 to 3 percent merit findings.  These are people who charge that their rights have been violated and 97 to 99 percent of the time the government rules, officially rules, that they had it coming.”

The investigative report also found that while regulations require OSHA to complete investigations in 90 days or less, they have not been able to come close to that timeline for well over a decade. The agency admits publicly that 71 percent of cases failed to meet the deadline.  In 2004, average completion time was 98 days but in 2014 that number rose to 378 days.

Devine told NBC Bay Area that “there is no excuse for how long these cases are taking.”  He added that there are real consequences for the whistleblowers who come forward, and OSHA delays add insult to injury:

“They are going bankrupt, their families are disintegrating, they are being blacklisted, usually because they have had no vindication.  They may be going through horrible emotional personal crises, have nervous breakdowns, depression, they lose their homes, their lives are a living hell—while OSHA fiddles.”


One Comment on “Pick Your Jaw Up: OSHA Awards Merit to Just 1.8% of Whistleblower Cases”

  1. Unions made the middle class

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