The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued its recommended practices for anti-retaliation programs, designed to guide employers in creating workplaces in which workers feel comfortable voicing concerns without fear of retaliation.
The guidelines were unanimously endorsed by the 12 members of the Labor Secretary’s Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee. They are intended to help all private and public sector employers covered by the 22 whistleblower statutes that OSHA enforces to improve the fairness, efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency in administering whistleblower protections.
According to OSHA, the recommendations can be adapted to most workplaces, and employers can adjust them to accommodate such variables as staff size, the makeup of the workforce, and the type of work performed.
The recommendations outline 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 for employees and managers;
- Program oversight.
“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 originally published a draft of the recommended practices in the fall of last year and opened them to public comment. The final version of the document incorporates several recommendations from the public, OSHA said.
These recommendations are strictly advisory and voluntary, OSHA said, and they “do not interpret or create any legal obligations, or alter existing obligations created by OSHA standards and recommendations.”
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, maritime, health care, workplace safety and health regulations, and consumer product safety laws.