If you've ever wondered where the term "Whistleblower" originated, don't look further since you have come to the right place. To put it simply, a whistleblower is any employee of an organization who submits a report against fraud, abuse, corruption, or any illicit activity that may harm the lives of public health and the work environment. It doesn't necessarily require the whistleblower to be a part of the agency or company where wrongdoing occurs. The essential factor is that an individual reports authentic information regarding that work, which would take time to acquire.
Though sports referees were typically called whistleblowers since they alert illegal activities during live matches, the invention of the term "Whistleblower" goes back to the 70s when an American Political activist, Ralph Nader, coined the word to avoid the negative implications of words like "informer" or a "spy."
The term incorporates "whistle," a tool for a call to action, and "blower," referencing the individual performing the blow.
What is a Whistleblower Protection Program?
The Federal OSHA'S Whistleblower Protection Program aims to protect the rights of workers who suffer from retaliation or discrimination from their employers for getting involved in protected activities by regulating the provisions of 24 Federal laws.
Safety concerns that are typically raised or reported are as follows:
- Site Safety Hazards or Safety Violations
- Commercial Motor Carrier
- Aviation Safety
- Consumer Product
- Financial Reform
- Food Safety
- Health Insurance Reform
- Motor Vehicle Safety
- Public Transportation Agency
- Anti-money laundering laws
Below is a short description of the Whistleblower Laws enacted under the Federal OSHA Jurisdiction. Each Act has a different period to file a complaint.
- Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) (30 days)
The U.S. Congress passed OSH Act in 1970 to improve the working conditions of organizations, protect workers' rights by ensuring they are provided with a healthy work environment, and prevent accidents and fatalities due to untrained or unskilled personnel. As per this law, no one can discriminate against or discharge an employee who has reported a violation of the OSH Act.
- Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (90 days)
This Act ensures that local schools or education agencies thoroughly inspect their buildings for asbestos-containing building material, draw asbestos management plans and execute asbestos response actions to avoid or lessen its dangerous hazards. In addition, any informant reporting a potential asbestos-hazards violation cannot be discriminated against or fired as they are subject to AHERA'S protection.
- Toxic Substances Control Act (30 days)
This Act permits the Environmental Protective Agency to enforce and test all imported or locally produced chemicals to avoid unnecessary risks to health and the surrounding. No employer may fire or discriminate against any employee testifying under this Act.
- Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (180 days)
This Act was passed to amend Title 49 United States Code to ensure the safety and security of pipelines. No employer may disqualify or persecute an employee who relates to any violation of any Federal law relevant to pipeline safety.
- Surface Transportation Assistance Act (180 days)
It is an extensive transportation funding and policy act passed in 1982 to restore interstate highways and bridges. Therefore, any person reporting the violation of a commercial motor vehicle safety or any alleged security violation should not be discharged or discriminated against and should remain under this Act's protection.
- Anti-Money Laundering Act (90 days)
This Act aims to enforce laws and regulations crafted to prevent people from forging the source of funds, assets, or obtaining income illegally. Any person reporting to enforcement agencies about violations happening in their workplaces is subjected to protection under this Act and cannot be discriminated against or discharged.
- Clean Air Act (30 days)
The Clean Air Act ensures that workers who inform government agencies about violations pertinent to toxic air pollutants are provided with complete support against retaliation from employers, such as disqualification from post or discrimination.
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (30 days)
Also known as CERCLA, it regulates a "Superfund" under the Federal Government to clear and clean unchecked or abandoned hazardous-waste sites and control injuries, accidents, accidental spills, and other contaminants discharged into the surroundings. Those employees who testify against such violations are protected under this Act and cannot be discriminated against or demoted by their employers.
- Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 (180 days)
The Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 formed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to execute its authority for depository institutions with more than $10 billion in holdings. The Act shelters the consumers from fraudulent practices and relocates lender data collection responsibilities under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act from the Federal Reserve to the Bureau. No employer shall disqualify an employee for filing a report against the violation of this Act by any means.
- Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (180 days)
CPSC shelters the public from threats of severe injury or death from several consumer goods, including products that can potentially produce dangerous hazards or injure children.
- Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act (180 days)
This Act aims to regulate protections for reporting criminal antitrust violations. In addition, this bill restricts employers from discriminating against workers who report such forbidden antitrust violations to the reporting authorities of the federal government.
- Energy Reorganization Act (180 days)
This Act of 1974 was enacted to rearrange specific operations relevant to the Federal Government in Energy Research and Development Administration and Nuclear Regulatory Commission to encourage productive management of such operations. Those employees who report nuclear safety concerns will remain protected under this law.
- Federal Railroad Safety Act (180 days)
The purpose of this law was to give authoritative rights to the Federal Railroad Administration. Accordingly, they are liable to inspect and enforce all railroad problems that fall under the jurisdiction of FRA.
- Federal Water Pollution Control Act (30 days)
In response to the public concern for contaminated water and water pollution in lakes and rivers, this Act was enacted to address the problems and preventative measures of water pollution.
- International Safe Container Act (60 days)
Under this Act, the United States Coast Guard is assigned control over examining containers used in international transport to ensure they comply with the Federal Hazardous Materials Transportation Law.
- Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (motor vehicle safety) (180 days)
This Act administers specific funds for Federal-aid highways, highway safety programs, transit programs, and other operations.
- National Transit Systems Security Act (180 days)
On the 3rd of August, 2007, this Act was enacted to become a part of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act to enforce retaliation protections for public transportation agency personnel.
- Safe Drinking Water Act (30 days)
The SDWA is the primary federal law under the United States jurisdiction established to ensure the drinking water provided to the public is safe and healthy.
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act (180 days)
In 2002, this Act became a federal law that enforced sweeping auditing and financial standards for public sector businesses. This legislation helps safeguard employees from accounting errors and illegal financial practices.
- Seaman's Protection Act (180 days)
SPA aims to forbid individuals from retaliating against seamen for getting involved in specific protected operations pertinent to an agreement with maritime safety laws and regulations.
- Section 402 of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (180 days)
This Act aims to forbid individuals or organizations involved in producing, processing, packing, transferring, discharging, withholding, or receiving food items from retaliating against workers who report practicing violations against the food safety laws under the approval of government authorities.
- Section 1558 of the Affordable Care Act (180 days)
This Act protects whistleblowers subjected to discrimination from their employers for pursuing assistance under specific affordability assistance provisions or reporting potential violations of the ACA's consumer protections.
- Solid Waste Disposal Act (30 days)
SWDA, an act of Congress in the U.S., was passed in 1965 to improve waste disposal facilities and technologies to protect public health and the environment from hazardous substances.
- Taxpayer First Act (180 days)
This Act was enacted to establish essential reforms to assist the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), such as requiring IRS to alert a taxpayer if IRS or Federal agency suggests disciplinary measures against a worker who has access to the taxpayer's return data without authoritative approval.
- Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (90 days)
It is a Federal Aviation Administrative reauthorization bill aiming to enforce safety standards and regulations in the aircraft industry as per the rules of the 21st Century. Employees are safeguarded under this law if they disclose any fraudulent activity relevant to the rules and standards of the Federal Aviation Administration, along with statutes pertinent to air carrier safety.