In the wake of the BP disaster, Congress is acting on its commitment to protect America's families and businesses, rebuild the Gulf Coast, hold BP and oil companies accountable, and work to ensure that a spill of this kind never happens again.
By a vote of 315-93, the House passed the Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act (H.R. 5851) on July 30th to protect workers who put the people's interest first and report violations or practices that endanger the public to state and federal government authorities.
Workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig had serious safety concerns prior to the explosion, but were reluctant to come forward with those concerns, which resulted in the death of 11 Americans. Workers on oil rigs, like the Deepwater Horizon, risk losing their jobs if they report dangerous workplace conditions. The workers performing clean-up activities on the Outer Continental Shelf similarly have no protections against employer retaliation for raising health and safety concerns. This bill extends whistleblower protections to workers regarding Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas exploration, drilling, production, or cleanup, whose employers are engaged in those activities - as they are best position to discover safety hazards.
Modeled after other modern whistleblower statutes, this bill would:
- Prohibit an employer from discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee who reports to the employer or government official that he or she reasonably believes the employer is violating the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA).
- Protect employees who prepare and/or testify about the alleged violation, report injuries or unsafe conditions related to the offshore work, refuse to work based on a good faith belief that the offshore work could cause injury or impairment or a spill, or refuse to perform in a manner that they believe violates the OCSLA.
- Establish a process for an employee to appeal an employer's retaliation by filing a complaint with the Secretary of Labor.
- Make an aggrieved employee eligible for reinstatement, back pay and compensatory and consequential damages, and, where appropriate, exemplary damages.
- Require employers post a notice that explains employee rights and remedies under this Act and provide training to the employees of these rights.
This builds on legislation already passed by the House to:
- ensure fair compensation to the families of those killed or injured in the BP spill,
- ensure aid to the Gulf, tough oversight for BP, and ample resources to respond to the spill,
- develop new methods and technologies to clean up oil spills and
- help us develop safer drilling technologies and prevent an accident such as the BP disaster from ever happening again.