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DOE Whistleblower Seeking Protection From Alleged Retaliation

A U.S. Department of Energy photographer is seeking whistleblower protection after the agency put him on administrative leave for sharing images he took that may document an improper relationship between Energy Secretary Rick Perry and coal mining mogul Robert Murray. According to The Washington Post, Simon Edelman, the DOE’s chief creative officer, filed a whistleblower complaint with his agency’s Office of Inspector General, which is charged with investigating reports of fraud, waste, and abuse within the department. Such complaints would typically come from whistleblowers within the DOE or whistleblowers with a close working relationship with the agency, such as a ... Read More

Texas Energy Co. Agrees To $1.4 Million Penalty For Muzzling Whistleblowers

An Oklahoma City-based oil and gas company has agreed to pay $1.4 million to settle charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it used illegal separation agreements and retaliated against a whistleblower who expressed concerns internally about how the company’s reserves were being calculated. According to the SEC, after a new whistleblower protection rule became effective in August 2011, SandRidge Energy Inc. conducted multiple reviews of its separation agreements, which lay out the terms of separation between a company and an employee, board member, or contractor. Despite these reviews, the company continued to routinely prohibit outgoing employees from ... Read More

Whistleblower complaints on the rise in Defense Department after passage of new law

The passage of a law last July enhancing whistleblower rights and protections for U.S. Defense Department employees and contractors may have encouraged more Defense workers to come forward with allegations of fraud and other wrongdoing, according to figures reported by the Department of Defense inspector general’s office. Since August 2013, a month after the new law went into effect, the rate of complaints from Defense Department whistleblowers increased from four per month to six per month. The Defense Department has received more than 200 whistleblower complaints as of Jan. 1. The complaints involve allegations of fraud, waste and abuse, public ... Read More

Minnesota expands whistleblower law to protect private-sector employees

Minnesota governor Mark Dayton has signed a bill into law that expands the state’s whistleblower protection laws to ensure that witnesses who report fraud and other wrongdoing will receive adequate safeguards and legal recourse. Minnesota’s current Whistleblower Act, signed into law in 1987, applied only to state employees who reported misconduct. The expanded law now applies to all private-sector employees as well. According to Business Management Daily, Minnesota’s old whistleblower law prohibited employers “from discharging, disciplining, threatening, or penalizing an employee in retaliation for making a good faith report of a violation or suspected violation of any federal or state ... Read More

Senate Committee passes bill to extend anti-discrimination protections to LGBT workers

A bipartisan bill that would ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has passed a Senate Committee by a vote of 15 to 7. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, known as ENDA, received the support of all 12 Democrats and 3 Republicans on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The bill was co-sponsored by Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). According to the Huffington Post, the committee spent just 10 minutes discussing the bill before voting it forward. The Committee Chairman, Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), said that the speed at which the bill passed ... Read More

Vet brings awareness to whistleblower laws with cross-country walk

A Gulf War veteran who wants to raise awareness about corruption and fraud, which he says he personally witnessed while working for the Northern Arizona VA health care system, has taken his message to the streets in a cross-country walk-a-thon. Steven Jacoby, 40, left his home in Arizona February 29, setting off on a 2,300-mile journey to Washington, D.C., on foot. It was a decision he had made only the day before, compelled by a desire to fix all of the fraud and wrongdoing by drawing attention to it. In June he had reached Tennessee, where he told Cookeville’s Herald-Citizen ... Read More

FTC investigates football helmet company for false safety and marketing claims

Football helmet manufacturers have been making fraudulent claims about the ability of their products to keep players safe on the field, New Mexico Senator Tom Udall asserted in a letter sent to the Federal Trade Commission earlier this month. Udall’s letter took aim at Riddell and Schutt Sports for their “misleading marketing claims,” and requested the FTC investigate the company’s claims. Riddell supplies the official helmet for the National Football League, but is also a leading helmet manufacturer of football helmets for high school players and younger. The company’s helmets are in use by athletes of all ages and ability ... Read More

government pushes pool industry to step up safety awareness

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that it formed a “strategic partnership” with the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP) in an effort to drive down the number of swimming pool-related deaths and injuries that occur every year, especially to children. The CPSC announced the partnership at the International Pool, Spa, & Patio Expo in Las Vegas. According to Kathleen Reilly, CPSC’s Pool Safely campaign director, the purpose of the alliance is to develop and implement a public safety campaign that it hopes will keep children away from faultily installed or defective drain covers and raise awareness of ... Read More

Deadly refinery explosion earns Tesoro 44 citations and record fine

On April 2, 2010, heat exchangers at a Tesoro Petroleum refinery in Anacortes, Washington, exploded, killing two female and five male company employees.  After six months of investigations, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) announced it had issued a $2.39 million fine against Tesoro — the largest fine in the agency’s history. According to L&I, a heat exchanger at the Tesoro refinery ruptured around 12:30 a.m., releasing volatile hydrocarbon vapor, which ignited almost immediately upon its release. L&I officials said the resulting explosion was the worst industrial disaster in the 37 years that the agency has been enforcing the ... Read More

Parents fight to turn tragic losses into tougher pool safety laws

Two mothers who watched their young children die after becoming trapped in the powerful suction at the bottom of a pool are now fighting to prevent tougher pool safety regulations from being further undermined by the swimming pool industry. Karen Cohn of Greenwich, Connecticut, and Nancy Baker of Thomaston, Maine, have joined forces to fight what they say are the pool lobby’s efforts to weaken the advances in pool safety. A 2007 federal law named for Baker’s 7-year-old daughter Virginia Graeme Baker, who died in 2002 after becoming entrapped in a hot tub’s intake suction, required anti-entrapment devices in public ... Read More