Whistle Blower Protection Act For Offshore Workers Introduced

Congressman DeSaulnier of California along with Congressmen Carbajal, Huffman and Scott, all of Virginia, introduced House Resolution No. 4304 on Nov. 8, 2017. The purpose of the legislation is to prohibit an employer from discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee who in the ordinary course of employment  “(A) provided, caused to be provided, or is about to provide or cause to be provided to the employer or to a Federal or State Government official, information relating to any violation of, or any act or omission the covered employee reasonably believes to be a violation of, any provision of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act or any order, rule, regulation, standard, or prohibition under that Act, or exercised any rights provided to employees under that Act,… (E) objected to, or refused to participate in any activity, policy, practice, or assigned task that the covered employee reasonably believed to be in violation of any provision of such Act, or any order, rule, regulation, standard, or ban under such Act” or other activity.” With respect to (E), “good faith belief” is the belief “that performing such duties would pose a health and safety hazard shall be of such a nature that a reasonable person under circumstances confronting the covered employee would conclude there is such a hazard.”

The legislation establishes an administrative process within the Department of Labor for the employee to file a complaint within 180 days of the alleged violation with notice to the employer. Within 90 days the Department shall investigate and determine if there is reasonable cause that the complaint has merit. Parties have 30 days to appeal and request a hearing before an ALJ of the Department of Labor. The proposed legislation defines the remedy the ALJ may give in the event of a finding in favor of the employee including all reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses. Appeal of an ALJ decision must be filed within 30 days with the Secretary who will appoint an appeal board. In the event the Secretary finds that the claim of the employee was made in bad faith, the employee may award the employer attorney’s fees not to exceed $1000.00

The act defines a procedure for filing in a federal district court and appeal. It allows for trial by jury. The ALJ or jury may award exemplary damages in addition to other relief defined in the legislation.  A copy of the proposed act may be found at:

https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-115hr4304ih/pdf/BILLS-115hr4304ih.pdf

A more complete review of the legislation will follow soon.