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Whistleblowers Blow their Whistles While They Work

It takes two to speak the truth: one to speak, and another to hear.

-Henry David Thoreau

The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Pilgrim Pride Corp. reached a $50,000 settlement in a 2012 whistleblower case. The case began when a manager for water reclamation at Pilgrim Pride’s processing plant informed the Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ) that he found contaminants such as mercury, chromium and  lead being discharged into the environment. These waters may eventually reach the public waters and seriously affect public health.

OSHA initiated their investigation upon receiving a letter from the whistleblower.  The terms of the settlement involve Pilgrim Pride paying the whistleblower $50,000 and posting signs about whistleblower rights in their places of work.

OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program

OSHA’s whistleblower program protects employees who report violations of workplace safety in a number of employment areas by enforcing whistleblower provisions of various statutes.  The breadth of the whistleblower program is exemplified by the following 21 statutes, whose whistleblower provisions are enforced by OSHA:

  • Occupational Safety & Health Act. OSHA is the enforcing agency for this act.
  • Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act. This act includes protecting employees reporting asbestos violations in schools.
  • Clean Air Act. This act includes shielding reporters of violations of air emissions.
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. There are provisions in this law that guard reporters of alleged violations relating to cleanup of hazardous waste sites.
  • Federal Water Pollution Control Act. This act includes shielding employees who report alleged violations relating to discharge of pollutants into water.
  • Energy Reorganization Act. Provisions in this law guard any worker who reports violations of the ERA or the Atomic Energy Act.
  • Safe Drinking Water Act. This act includes protecting any worker who reports alleged violations relating to drinking water.
  • Solid Waste Disposal Act. Provisions in this law guard employees who report alleged violations relating to the disposal of solid and hazardous waste .
  • Toxic Substances Control Act. This act includes protecting workers who report alleged violations relating to industrial chemicals produced or imported into the United States.
  • Federal Railroad Safety Act. This act includes shielding employees of railroad carriers who report safety violations or abuse of public funds designated for railroad safety.
  • International Safe Container Act. Provisions in this law guard workers involved in international shipping who report to the Coast Guard the existence of an unsafe cargo container.
  • Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. This act includes protecting whistleblowers reporting about motor vehicle defects or other violations.
  • National Transit Systems Security Act. This act includes protecting transit workers who report a hazardous safety or security condition or the abuse of federal grants.
  • Pipeline Safety Improvement Act. This act includes shielding whistleblowers reporting violations of federal laws related to pipeline safety and security .
  • Seaman’s Protection Act. This act includes protecting employees who report to the Coast Guard or another federal agency a violation of a maritime safety law or regulation.
  • Surface Transportation Assistance Act. Provisions in this law guard truck drivers and other employees who refuse to violate regulations related to the safety of commercial motor vehicles.
  • Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century. This act includes shielding employees of air carriers and contractors and subcontractors of air carriers who report violations of laws related to aviation.
  • Affordable Care Act. This act includes protecting employees who report violations of any provision of title I of the ACA.
  • Consumer Financial Protection Act. Provisions in this law guard employees who blow the whistle on violations of any provision of the Title X of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act. This act includes shielding employees of certain companies who report alleged violations of the SEC rules and regulations or violation of federal laws related to fraud against shareholders.
  • FDA Food Safety Modernization Act This act includes protecting workers of food manufacturers who report a transgression of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or a regulation promulgated under the Act.
  • Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. This act includes shielding reporters of any statute or regulation within the jurisdiction of the Consumer Safety Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

OSHA’s whistleblower program protects workers from retaliatory acts by their employers including:

  • Intimidation
  • Threats
  • Unjustified discipline
  • Reduction in hours or pay
  • Termination
  • Demotion
  • Refusal to hire
  • Denial of overtime or promotion
  • Reassignment to a dead-end position

Any employee who experiences any of these adverse employment actions needs to consult a Texas whistleblower attorney immediately.

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