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OSHA Changes Whistleblower Protections in Favor of Employees

A whistleblower is a person who exposes an individual, company, or organization engaged in illegal or illicit activity. Since 1970, whistleblowers have been protected from retaliation by the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Last month, these protections were enhanced when OSHA issued a revised Whistleblower Investigations Manual for use by agency investigators to determine whether to pursue or dismiss a retaliation case. The updated manual includes a change that significantly affects the investigation process for whistleblowers, in favor of employees. Contact a Boston Whistleblower Attorney Today.

In the old manual, OSHA investigators were instructed to dismiss complaints unless the whistleblower was able to show evidence of a prima facie allegation of retaliation. This means, essentially, that upon initial examination, enough evidence must be present to support the allegations of retaliation. The updated manual eliminates the prima facie requirement. Under the new guidelines, OSHA only needs to “find reasonable cause that a complaint has merit.” Basically, the updated standard requires much less evidence. “The evidence does not need to establish conclusively that a violation did occur.” These changes have effectively tipped the scales in favor of the whistleblower.

Whistleblower FAQs

  • In order to obtain a financial reward, a whistleblower must file a lawsuit.
  • If the illegal or fraudulent activity cheats the government, a whistleblower can file suit under the Federal False Claims Act.
  • A ‘relator’ is a person who initiates a False Claims Act lawsuit.
  • The relator must be an ‘original source’ as defined by the False Claims Act: “ An individual who has direct and independent knowledge of the information on which the allegations are based and has voluntarily provided the information to the Government before filing an action under this section which is based on the information.”
  • Will my employer know if I file a False Claims lawsuit? The suit will remain ‘under seal’ and will not be served on the defendant for a minimum of 60 days, and as long as several years.
  • Private citizens can also receive a financial reward for reporting tax fraud or failure to pay federal taxes.

Whistleblowers May Receive Up to 30% of Recovered Funds

Blowing the whistle on government fraud can be extremely lucrative for the whistleblower. Under the False Claims Act, not only are whistleblowers given job protection, they are also typically entitled to a portion of funds recovered by the government. In fact, a whistleblower may receive up to 30% of the recovered funds. Considering that settlements can be in the tens or hundreds of millions, even in the billions, 30% can be a substantial figure.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Premier Whistleblower Law Firm

If you have unique information about fraudulent or illegal activities against the government, being committed by a person, company, or organization, we can help. The whistleblower team at Altman & Altman, LLP understands the sensitive nature of these cases. Potential whistleblowers are often concerned with retaliation and other repercussions. Fortunately, a number of government protections are given to people who expose fraudulent or illegal activity that harms government interests, or puts the safety and well-being of the public in jeopardy. Our legal team will analyze the details of your case to determine the most appropriate strategy. We will make sure that you understand your rights and options before moving forward. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.