Yesterday Congress enacted a new whistleblower law to protect public and private sector employees in the manufacturing and retail industries who disclose information to an employer, a regulatory agency, or a State Attorney General about a reasonably perceived violation of the Consumer Product Safety Commission Act (“CPSCA”) or any act enforced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The law also protects an employee’s good faith refusal to violate the CPSCA.
Under this new whistleblower protection law, a retaliation claim must be filed with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (“OSHA”) within 180 days of the employee first becoming aware of the retaliatory action. After OSHA performs an investigation, either party can request a hearing before a Department of Labor Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) and can appeal an ALJ decision to the Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board. If the Department of Labor has not issued a final decision within 210 days of the filing of the complaint, the employee may remove the complaint to federal court for a jury trial. A prevailing employee is entitled to reinstatement, back pay, compensatory damages, and litigation costs including reasonable attorney fees and expert witness fees.