WASHINGTON – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued policies and procedures for applying a new process for resolving whistleblower disputes. The new process is an early resolution process that is to be used as part of a regional Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program. The ADR program offers whistleblower parties the opportunity to negotiate a settlement with the assistance of a neutral, confidential OSHA representative who has subject-matter expertise in whistleblower investigations. The Administrative Dispute Resolution Act requires that each federal agency “adopt a policy that addresses the use of alternative means of dispute resolution and case management.”
“OSHA receives several thousand whistleblower complaints for investigation each year,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “The Alternative Dispute Resolution process can be a valuable alternative to the expensive and time-consuming process of an investigation and litigation. It will provide whistleblower complainants and respondents the option of exploring voluntary resolution of their disputes outside of the traditional investigative process.”
OSHA piloted an ADR program in two of its regions from October 2012 to September 2013. The pilot proved that the early resolution ADR process is a successful method for helping parties to reach a mutual and voluntary outcome to their whistleblower cases. The pilot program demonstrated that having staff dedicated to facilitating settlement negotiations provides an efficient and effective service that is highly desired by complainants and respondents alike.
The success of the early resolution ADR process has resulted in the agency making it available to all of its regions. This directive does not prohibit OSHA whistleblower offices from offering complainants and respondents other alternative dispute resolution processes, such as third-party mediation.