A Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow: An Economic Incentives-Based Approach to OSHA Whistleblowing
The Employee Rights and Employment Policy Journal, Forthcoming
24 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2010 Last revised: 11 May 2010
Date Written: January 18, 2010
Labor and employment law whistleblower statutes focus on protecting employees who complain about workplace violations by prohibiting the employer from taking an adverse employment action against the whistleblower because of his or her complaint. It is an open question whether even the strongest of anti-retaliation protections in whistleblower statutes do much to encourage employees to report wrongdoing. If more of the right kind of whistleblowing is beneficial from a policy perspective, it is important to consider other models for encouraging potential whistleblowers to act. In the workplace safety and health area, OSHA-enforced whistleblower statutes follow the traditional anti-retaliation model and have generally failed to motivate the right type of whistleblowing and protect those who do make complaints. This piece outlines an "economic rewards" approach to OSHA whistleblowing in which an employee who complains to the Department of Labor about a federal workplace safety and health violation could ultimately receive a monetary reward for the tip if the Department subsequently determines that a workplace safety and health violation occurred. While this type of approach is a novel one in the workplace safety and health area, it has worked well in the context of fraud against the government. Transporting this model to workplace safety and health has some appeal even though there are a variety of technical issues that would have to be considered for such an approach to be realistic.
Keywords: whistleblower, OSHA, workplace safety and health, economic rewards model, bounty model
JEL Classification: J28, J78, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation