Several lawmakers in Congress are proposing a bill to expand whistleblower protections for those in the oil industry working on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). These workers are playing key roles in oil and gas exploration, production, drilling and spill cleanup.
The bill, called the Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act of 2015, would offer greater protections for OCS workers, who at this point lack the federal safeguards afforded to others in the energy industry.
Aiming to prevent future accidents
According to Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, there is evidence to suggest workers knew of potential problems with the Deepwater Horizon oilrig, which exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. These individuals did not speak out, DeSaulnier says, out of fear that they would be fired or suffer some form of retaliation. The proposed bill aims to make the reporting of wrongdoing easier and less risky for OCS workers.
The bill, which is currently in the House Education and Workforce Committee, would make it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers who report violations of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, either to a supervisor or a federal official. It would also provide protections for employees reporting unsafe work conditions or those who refuse to work in conditions they reasonably believe are in violation of the law.
If passed, the bill would likely bring the protections offered to OCS workers in line with the oil and gas industry in general. Employees in the energy industry have the right to report violations of state and federal regulations, as well as excessive hazards that could result in serious accidents and injuries. It’s important for oil and gas companies to understand these regulations and what they need to do when workers report potential problems.
For more information on this proposed bill and what it could mean for OCS workers and employers alike, speak with Steve Kardell at Whistleblower Law for Managers.