HR 5851 - "Whistleblower Protection" for Offshore Oil Workers - National Key Vote


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Title: "Whistleblower Protection" for Offshore Oil Workers

Vote Smart's Synopsis:

Vote to pass a bill that establishes "whistleblower protections" for individuals engaged in work on or in waters above the Outer Continental Shelf.


  • Defines "employee" as an individual performing services, or applying to perform services, on behalf of an employer that is engaged in activities on or in waters above the Outer Continental Shelf related to 1 of the following (Sec. 3):
    • Exploration, development, production, processing, or transportation of oil or gas; or
    • Oil spill cleanup, emergency response, environmental surveillance, protection, restoration, or other oil spill activities related to occupational safety and health.
  • Prohibits employers from terminating or discriminating against an employee because the employee did any of the following (Sec. 2):
    • Providing, causing to provide, or being about to provide to the employer or a federal or state government official information on any act or omission that the employee "reasonably believes" to be a violation of any provisions of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (43 U.S.C. 1301 et seq.);
    • Exercising any rights provided to employees under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act;
    • Testifying, assisting, or participating in a proceeding, including a Congressional hearings, concerning an alleged violation of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act;
    • Reporting an illness, injury, or "unsafe condition" related to the employer's activities to the employer or a state or federal government official;
    • Refusing to perform duties, or exercising stop work authority, if the employee had a "good faith belief" that performing such duties could result injury, impairment of health, or cause an oil spill, meaning a "reasonable" individual under the same circumstance would conclude there is such a hazard; or
    • Objecting to, or refusing to participate in any activity, policy, practice, or assigned task that the employee "reasonably" believes to be in violation of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
  • Authorizes employees to file complaint with the Secretary of Labor alleging a termination or discrimination in violation of the aforementioned prohibitions within 180 days of the alleged violation or the date on which he or she "should reasonably have known" about the violation, and requires the Secretary to initiate an investigation within 90 days of receiving a complaint to determine if there is "reasonable cause" that a violation has occurred (Sec. 2).
  • Requires the Secretary of Labor or, if a hearing is requested, an administrative judge to order employers to do the following if it is determined that a violation occurred (Sec. 2):
    • Take affirmative action to abate the violation;
    • Reinstate the employee to his or her former position together with compensation (including back pay and prejudgment interest), and restore the terms, conditions, and privileges associated with his or her employment; and
    • Provide compensatory and consequential damages, and exemplary damages if the judge determines it's appropriate.
  • Authorizes employers to request a hearing before an administrative law judge of the Department of Labor if the Secretary of Labor concludes that there is "reasonable cause" that a violation has occurred within 30 days of such determination, and requires the judge to issue findings within 90 days of the receipt of a request for a hearing (Sec. 2).
  • Authorizes employers to appeal a determination made by the Secretary of Labor or an administrative judge of the Department of Labor that a violation had occurred, and authorizes the Secretary to designate such an appeal to a review board (Sec. 2).
  • Authorizes the Secretary of Labor to require an employee pay the employer's attorney fees if the Secretary determines the complaint to be "frivolous" or to have been brought in "bad faith," provided that such payment does not exceed $1,000 (Sec. 2).

Title: "Whistleblower Protection" for Offshore Oil Workers