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Compliance Week: Curtis Summers Encourages Employers to Heed OSHA’s Increased Whistleblower Protection

11.22.11

A November 22 Compliance Week article, “OSHA Makes It Easier to File a Whistleblower Claim,” discussed recent changes made to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Whistleblower Investigations Manual. OSHA’s Whistleblower protection program allows employees to report corrupt corporate practices to authorities without fear of retaliation, and the new manual updates make it easier for employees to file whistleblower claims and indicate increased investigation efforts by OSHA. The new rules also reflect a higher burden of proof for employers when defending themselves against retaliation claims made by employees under certain whistleblower laws. “What this means for employers in the context of whistleblower complaints in which the standard is applicable is that they will need to offer unmistakable and highly persuasive evidence of non-retaliation,” said Curtis Summers, a Husch Blackwell Labor & Employment attorney. “Employers should be prepared to show that no legitimate question exists as to their intent in taking adverse action against an employee who engaged in protected activity.” Summers concluded that OSHA is sending a message that it will be conducting investigations with increased scrutiny. “Employers’ best defense is always prevention,” Summers said, and in this situation, that is achieved by developing proper complaint and investigation procedures to deal with potential whistleblower issues.

Click here for more information on OSHA’s new internal Whistleblower Investigation Manual.