A New Online Avenue for Whistleblowers

online whistleblowerJust before Thanksgiving, the Leader Board highlighted some figures from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s latest report to Congress, showing more whistleblower complaints being brought to the SEC. A more recent United States Department of Labor announcement may help keep that number on the rise.

On Dec. 5, the DOL launched an online form that provides whistleblowing employees who have been retaliated against with a new way to reach out for OSHA assistance.

In addition to making complaints via phone or in writing, workers are now able to electronically submit whistleblower complaints to OSHA here. The form prompts users to include basic whistleblower complaint information, in order to be contacted for follow-up. According to OSHA, complaints are automatically routed to the appropriate regional whistleblower investigators. The complaint form can also be downloaded and submitted to the agency in hard-copy format by fax, mail or in person.

The aforementioned SEC report—in which the agency said it received 3,238 complaints in fiscal year 2013, an 8 percent increase over 2012—came less than two months after the SEC awarded a record $14 million to an unidentified whistleblower whose tip led to a significant enforcement action.

When the agency made that news public, experts predicted the award would spur more whistleblowers to bring information to the SEC, while worrying that some of these additional claims may lack merit.

Whether the latter proves true remains to be seen, but the number of whistleblowers complaints is clearly on the way up. And, the availability of this online form may further embolden whistleblowers to come forward without fear of reprisal. That’s the idea, anyway, according to Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels.

“The ability of workers to speak out and exercise their rights without fear of retaliation provides the backbone for some of American workers’ most essential protections,” said Michaels, in a statement. “Whistleblower laws protect not only workers, but also the public at large, and now workers will have an additional avenue available to file a complaint with OSHA.”