US Labor Department's OSHA announces interim final rule,
invites public comment on whistleblower protections for reporting violations
of Affordable Care Act's health insurance reforms
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has published an interim final rule in the Federal Register that governs whistleblower complaints filed under Section 1558 of the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act contains various provisions to make health insurance more affordable and accountable to consumers. Among the policies to achieve its goals, the Affordable Care Act's Section 1558 provides protection to employees against retaliation by an employer for reporting alleged violations of Title I of the act or for receiving a tax credit or cost-sharing reduction as a result of participating in a Health Insurance Exchange or Marketplace.
Title I includes a range of insurance company accountability policies, such as the prohibition of lifetime limits on coverage and exclusions due to pre-existing conditions. If an employee reports a violation of one of these policies or requirements, the act's whistleblower provision prohibits employers from retaliating against the employee. If an employee is retaliated against in violation of the whistleblower provision, he or she may file a complaint with, and ultimately receive relief from, OSHA or the courts.
The Affordable Care Act authorizes the secretary of labor to conduct investigations into complaints and issue determinations, which are functions delegated to OSHA. OSHA's interim final rule establishes the procedures and time frames for the filing and handling of such complaints, including investigations by OSHA, appeals of OSHA determinations to an administrative law judge for a hearing, review of such decisions by the Administrative Review Board and judicial review of the secretary's final decision.
The interim final rule can be viewed at www.dol.gov/find/20130222/. Comments, which will be accepted for 60 days, may be submitted electronically via the federal e-rulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov, or by mail or fax. Faxed submissions, including attachments, must not exceed 10 pages and should be sent to the OSHA Docket Office at 202-693-1648. Comments submitted by mail should be addressed to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. OSHA-2011-0193, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-2625, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20210.
A fact sheet about filing whistleblower complaints under the Affordable Care Act is available at http://www.osha.gov/Publications/whistleblower/OSHAFS-3641.pdf.*
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report reasonably perceived violations of various workplace, commercial motor vehicle, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, railroad, public transportation, maritime, consumer product, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, corporate securities, food safety, and consumer financial reform laws and regulations. Additional information is available at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today also issued a final rule that implements five key consumer protections from the Affordable Care Act and makes the health insurance market work better for individuals, families and small businesses. For more information, visit http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2013pres/02/20130222a.html.
Under the OSH Act, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille or CD from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.
* Accessibility Assistance Contact OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.