The OSHA whistleblower pilot program is similar to the existing Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses on employers OSHA believes are indifferent to worker safety and health, or who willfully ignore it. The difference with this program is that it will focus on employers who allegedly engage in “blatant retaliation against workers who report unsafe working conditions and violations of the law,” according to OSHA.
The original Severe Violator Enforcement Program engages in “shaming” by putting companies on a severe violator list prior to final resolution of their cases. It is essentially a “guilty until proven innocent” approach. In some cases, that means that companies ultimately cleared of a citation still have to pay a “shaming penalty.” That can cost them business and do long-term damage to their reputations.
As described in an article in the National Law Review by Tressi L. Cordaro of the Jackson Lewis law firm, the OSHA whistleblower pilot program will inform the public with “press releases announcing the employer’s inclusion on the log and providing copies of court filings and the agency’s own investigatory findings to Department of Labor agencies, federal agencies with jurisdiction over the original complaint, labor unions within the employer’s facility, and the facility’s own corporate headquarters.”