Today, the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) issued a standard interpretation clarifying its position on the new recordkeeping rule’s anti-retaliation provisions. OSHA’s memorandum essentially “rolls back” its enforcement of the anti-retaliation provisions, particularly concerning safety incentive programs and post-accident drug testing. Why is this important? Mainly because many employers struggled to understand the anti-retaliation provisions since they were published, in guidance materials accompanying the new regulations, in May 2016. Indeed, OSHA has gone to great lengths to explain the anti-retaliation provisions in the new rule’s preamble, with OSHA guidance and several memorandums. To be blunt, OSHA’s explanations have been extremely vague and confusing. But alas, the struggle to understand the anti-retaliation provisions is over … hopefully. Today’s interpretation states supersedes all the prior guidance on this topic.
Despite the DOL’s continuous promotion of whistleblower/retaliation claims, I don’t believe that employers appreciate the sheer variety of ways in which disgruntled employees can claim that the employer retaliated against him for complaining or raising issues related to safety, environmental, wage-hour, discrimination, or numerous other subjects.