Whistleblower Protection for Food Workers: OSHA Increases Coverage
The Department of Labor has gotten itself into the food safety business, and in a very important way that should help to make everyone safer.
The Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an interim final rule last week with regard to expanded whistleblower protections for absolutely everyone in the food safety chain, including truck drivers. Drivers who report potential food safety risks to the authorities, or even the companies they drive for, often face retaliation, including disciplinary action, reduced hours, or even termination.
The Federal Register notice of the interim final rule was published on Feb. 13, and it gives a solid outline of the timeframes and procedures OSHA plans to implement regarding its handling of complaints of employer retaliation. Under OSHA’s new whistleblower provisions, workers will have 180 days to report that they were unfairly treated by their employer or a supervisor after they reported suspected food safety problems to file a complaint with the Department of Labor. That 180 days begins with the adverse action or alleged retaliation.
This move by OSHA and the Department of Labor is actually part of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act. The Act, which was signed into law in Jan. 2011, grants the FDA the power to issue a mandatory recall whenever there is a suspected outbreak of a food borne illness in the food supply. The law also encourages everyone in the food supply chain to come forward with information whenever they discover a problem, including those who grow food, those who process food, those who make food available for consumption, and now, even the truck drivers who move the food to market.
With the Food Safety Modernization Act, the federal government is showing that it’s taking its food safety mandate seriously, and protecting those who know when there are problems with the safety of the food supply. This should make those who are in a position to report problems more comfortable in doing so, which should make the food supply safer. In the meantime, if you or a loved one has become sick or died due to a food-borne illness, please contact the experienced and knowledgeable Texas Food Poisoning Lawyer at Hill Law Firm to protect your rights under the law.