OSHA Sets Procedures for Investigating Retaliation Complaints from Dodd-Frank Whistleblowers

On April 3, 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an interim final rule setting out its procedures for investigating retaliation complaints brought by whistleblowers in the financial services industry under the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA). 

The CFPA was enacted as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank). Dodd-Frank protects employees who provide information about acts or practices that they “reasonably believe” to be violations of federal consumer protection laws or regulations. The CFPA protects employees against retaliation by companies that offer consumer financial products or services, such as residential mortgages, mortgage loan modification and foreclosure relief services, private education loans, payday loans, consumer credit, and debt relief services.

The rule establishes procedures, burdens of proof, remedies, and statutes of limitations similar to other whistleblower protection statutes that OSHA administers. OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace and other regulations. OSHA has also developed a fact sheet, Filing Whistleblower Complaints under the Consumer Financial Protection Act explaining who is covered under the CFPA, what is protected activity, the types of retaliation, and the process for filing a complaint. 

Employees must file complaints within 180 days of the alleged retaliation. If OSHA pursues an investigation, the rule says it must issue written findings. If OSHA finds retaliation, it has authority to order remedies, such as reinstatement with back pay. OSHA also can order compensatory damages, including attorney’s fees. Consequently, companies in the financial services industry may wish to review the rule and comment on it.     

OSHA is accepting comments until June 2, 2014.  Comments may be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov or by mail or fax. The text of the interim final rule is available here and contains more details.