3 Ways Employers Can Respond to OSHA’s New Online Whistleblower Complaint Form

“OSHA’s newly approved procedure for whistleblower complaints, which allows individuals to submit a claim 24 hours a day, may lead to an upsurge in the already rising number of whistleblower complaints being filed…” (Heather MacDougall of Akerman)

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration unveiled an online whistleblower complaint form earlier this month, making it easier than ever for workers to file, write Margaret Campbell and Jesse Ferrantella of Ogletree Deakins:

“Under the previous system, whistleblowers could only make complaints to OSHA by filing a written complaint, or by calling the agency’s hotline or regional office. The online system will provide a more convenient avenue for whistleblowers to lodge their complaints and to meet the filing deadlines. It will allow whistleblowers to report violations in a simple form, where they can describe the allegedly retaliatory act by clicking a box from a menu of choices.”

How should employers respond?

1. Upgrade your internal complaint practices and procedures:

“Employers may wish to consider OSHA’s recent action by creating an equally easy way to file an internal complaint electronically. In addition, employers are urged to train (and retrain) their supervisors regarding these policies, and particularly on how to respond if an employee raises a complaint. It is critical for employers to regularly monitor and review their complaint policies and procedures, and make certain that supervisors are trained on how to properly react to an employee filing such a claim.” (Heather MacDougall of Akerman)

2. Prepare for an increase in complaints:

“Although the online form is nearly identical to the existing paper complaint form, OSHA has said the online system will give workers an easily accessible way to file whistleblower complaints without fear of retaliation. Workers can now file complaints by calling an agency hotline or a regional office, submitting a written complaint, or using the online form. Given the ease with which employees now can file complaints, employers should brace for a likely increase in these claims.” (Andrew Herman and Denise Keyser of Ballard Spahr)

3. Promptly investigate any worker complaints:

“By encouraging employees to complain internally, employers increase their ability to investigate and redress situations promptly. In addition, doing so decreases the likelihood that employees will seek counsel, an outside agency, or court involvement. A proactive approach to avoiding whistleblower claims, and a swift and appropriate response if complaints are made, is the best way to minimize or entirely avoid this type of employment claim.” (MacDougall)

The updates:

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