On July 31, Congress enacted a new Whistleblower Law designed to promote consumer product safety. The new federal legislation specifically was enacted to protect public and private sector employees who disclose to their employers, a regulatory agency or a state Attorney General any perceived violation of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The law also provides protection for employees who refuse to participate in violations of the Consumer Product Safety Commission Act. Obviously, the purpose of this legislation was to protect employees who, in good faith, report potential safety problems connected with consumer products and to prevent retaliation against such an employee either in the private or public sector. Any employee who, in good faith, reports or discloses potential violations of the Consumer Product Safety Commission Act, is protected from retaliation by this legislature.
Under the new whistleblower legislation, an employee who believes that they have been unlawfully retaliated against for disclosing a violation of the Consumer Product Safety Commission Act must file with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) a complaint of retaliation within 180 days of becoming aware of the retaliatory action. Afterwards, on an administrative basis, OHSA will conduct an investigation. Either the employee or the employer can request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and can appeal an adverse decision to the Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board. If the Department of Labor has not issued a final decision within 210 days after the filing of the complaint, an employee may remove the complaint to Federal Court and ask for a jury trial.
Under the new Act’s provisions, in order to deter employers from retaliating against employees who, in good faith, report violations or potential violations of the Consumer Product Safety Commission Act, a prevailing employee who has been unlawfully retaliated against will be entitled, among other things, to reinstatement, back pay, compensatory damages and litigation costs including reasonable attorney’s fees.
We applaud this new legislation and hope that it will fulfill its statutory goals. All whistleblowers who have knowledge of safety violations involving consumer products now should feel more comfortable in coming forward to disclose such violations. If they do so, they are now legally protected.