New government report finds ongoing flaws in Labor Dept.'s whistleblower protections

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A new government report has found continuing flaws in the U.S. Department of Labor’s whistleblower-protection program.

The report echoes concerns raised in a recent Center investigation of the department’s handling of whistleblower claims under the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate reform act.

The Government Accountability Office report says the labor agency “has done little” to insure that investigators who review whistleblower complaints “have the necessary training and equipment to do their jobs.” In addition, the agency doesn’t have “sufficient internal controls to ensure that the whistleblower program operates as intended,” the GAO said.

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration handles whistleblower claims made under the Sarbanes-Oxley act and 18 other laws. The Center for Public Integrity’s investigation found that over the past eight years the agency had upheld 25 whistleblower claims under the Sarbanes-Oxley law — and tossed out 1,066 claims. That translated into a winning percentage of little more than 2 percent for workers seeking whistleblower status.

OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels acknowledged to the Center in July that his agency wasn’t “doing all that we should be doing for whistleblowers.” He said that he had ordered a comprehensive review of all whistleblower programs under the agency’s responsibility.

In a written statement Thursday in response to the GAO report, Michaels said the review in continuing. He added that “OSHA has already begun taking action on items recommended in the GAO report, such as requiring all investigators and their supervisors to complete mandatory investigator training over the next 18 months, setting strategic goals and performance measures for the whistleblower program, and providing new equipment to field staff.”

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