OSHA promises to protect workers who report healthcare reform law violations

Workers who blow the whistle on violations of the healthcare law will be protected from retaliation by the federal government, according to new rules issued on Wednesday.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is encouraging people to turn in employers who fail to abide by the rules set in the Affordable Care Act.

Specifically, the rules would shield whistleblowers who report employers who are blocking access to healthcare tax credits or denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions.

In the 58-page interim rule, OSHA notes that the healthcare law could “create an incentive for an employer to retaliate against an employee” who reports violations, since employers would face fines for not complying with the law.

“Certain large employers who fail to offer affordable plans that meet this minimum value may be assessed a tax penalty if any of their full-time employees receive a premium tax credit through the [healthcare] exchange,” the rule’s document reads.

“[The Affordable Care Act] protects employees against such retaliation,” OSHA says.

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The rule establishes a timeline and guidance for how the complaints should be handled. OSHA says the whistleblower process is similar to others in place at the agency.

The regulation requires an employee to file a complaint to the Labor Department within 180 days of the alleged retaliation. The secretary has 60 days to respond and allow the employer and employee to respond to the charges and meet with an investigator, who will also meet with “witnesses,” according to the Federal Register document.

The Labor Department will continue with an investigation if the employee shows “that the protected activity was a contributing factor in the adverse action alleged in the complaint."

The new protections are effective immediately, but OSHA will accept comments until April 27 on how to improve the regulations.