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A Year in a Pandemic Results in Record Number of OSHA Retaliation Complaints from Whistleblowers

It’s now been more than a year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic. In that time, society has seen significant upheaval, and businesses have had to endure a great deal of turbulence.

One symptom of that turbulence has been the large number of whistleblower retaliation complaints filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In the 2020 fiscal year, the Whistleblower Protection Program overseen by OSHA saw a total of 3,448 retaliation complaints, this for the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2020.

Analyzing the complaints

OSHA attributes the rise in retaliation complaints to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite barely only 50 percent of the fiscal year occurring during the pandemic. This means the 2021 fiscal year could even break the records set in the previous fiscal year.

According to OSHA, the majority of whistleblower retaliation claims filed in FY 2020 were for violations of the OSH act—nearly 75 percent of all complaints fell under that category, and the total number represented a 25 percent increase over the previous record.

The Act prohibits employers from firing or discriminating against employees who report health and safety issues in the workplace. It should come as no surprise, then, that in the face of a global pandemic, employees have uncovered many more issues with workplace safety than usual. Many complaints relating to COVID safety include a lack of personal protective equipment, social distancing and/or sanitation.

The understaffed nature of the WPP makes it difficult for the agency to properly investigate all complaints, meaning there is going to be a significant backlog. As of October, the agency had only managed to resolve two percent of COVID-related retaliation complaints it received.

Expect pandemic safety issues to continue to be at the forefront of retaliation claims in 20201. For more information about how to report noncompliance with safety protocols, contact an experienced lawyer at Kardell Law Group.

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