Environmental Statutes

Whistleblower Provisions in More Than 20 Laws

The Department of Labor (DOL) administers whistleblower provisions in over 20 different statutes relevant to the environment, workplace safety, airlines, commercial motor carriers, consumer products, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipelines, public transportation, railroads, maritime, and securities laws.  Some of these laws are available to public employees at the local, state and/or federal level, while some are only available to private sector employees.

Here is a a chart listing all of these laws, who is covered under them, the statute of limitations for filing a complaint, available remedies and other information.  

These laws forbid employers from taking “adverse actions” against employees in retaliation for reporting violations or for taking actions in furtherance of the purposes of these laws. 

The arm of DOL responsible for administering these laws is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Environmental Laws with Whistleblower Provisions

  •  Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (concerning asbestos in elementary and secondary schools);
  • Safe Drinking Water Act;
  • Federal Water Pollution Control Act (also known as the Clean Water Act (note that DOL has ruled that federal employees cannot claim under this Act,  although state, municipal and tribal employees can)
  • Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) (not available to federal employees)
  • Solid Waste Disposal Act (also known as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act or RCRA);
  • Clean Air Act;
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (also known as “Superfund”).

More detail about their provisions can be found here and you can see an example of how these statutes work 

Procedures for whistleblower claims at DOL

Information about how to file complaints under the whistleblower provisions of these environmental statutes is displayed here. 

While an overview of the entire complaint adjudication process can be seen here.

Comparison with Whistleblower Protection Act

For federal employees who might have a choice of whether to bring a claim under one of the DOL statutes or the Whistleblower Protection Act, there are several advantages (and a few disadvantages) of the DOL process over the MSPB process.  It is also possible to bring cases both at DOL and at the MSPB.

Labor Woes at Labor

Given its huge jurisdiction, the whistleblower program administered by OSHA is vastly under-staffed. In addition, the organizational integrity of the program within OSHA has been the subject of scathing independent critiques in response to which the agency has taken only half-measures.

As a result, OSHA investigations usually take far longer than the statutory timelines and the quality of the work is uneven.