OSHA finalizes whistleblower protections under FSMA

by Erica Shaffer
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WASHINGTON – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently finalized a rule that provides whistleblower protections for workers who report violations of the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA).

The final rule establishes procedures for handling retaliation complaints under FSMA; and explains the burdens of proof, remedies and statute of limitations which are similar to other whistleblower protection regulations that OSHA enforces.

For example, employees have 180 days from the date of the alleged retaliation to file a complaint against their employer. The Secretary of Labor has within 60 days of receiving the complaint to give the complainant and respondent an opportunity to submit responses and meet with an investigator to present statements from witnesses and conduct an investigation.

“Food industry workers must never be silenced by the threat of losing their jobs when their safety or the safety of the public is at stake,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “This rule underscores the agency’s commitment to protect the rights of workers who report illegal activity in their workplace.”

FSMA protects workers who provide information about possible violations of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act from employers that manufacture, process, pack, transport, distribute, receive, hold or import food.

OSHA published an interim rule in 2014. The final rule reflects public comments on the interim rule while clarifying “…the agency’s policy regarding approval of settlement agreements, and improves consistency with the language of the statute, other OSHA whistleblower regulations, and developments in applicable case law.”

Details of the whistleblower procedures can be found here.
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