New regs for Thursday: Gay marriages, whistleblowers, energy efficiency

Thursday's edition of the Federal Register contains new rules for energy efficiency, whistleblower protections and how one government agency will recognize gay marriages.

Here's what is happening: 

DOMA: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is updating its regulations to comply with a Supreme Court ruling that the federal government must recognize gay marriages.

The FDA announced new guidance on Wednesday to explain how the agency defines the terms "marriage" and "spouse." The agency said it will affect some of its existing regulations.

This comes after the Supreme Court last June struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred the federal government from recognizing gay marriages in United States v. Windsor.

The guidance goes into effect immediately.

Energy efficiency: The Department of Energy is delaying new energy conservation standards for computers and battery backup systems that it says could help households save money on their energy bills.

The Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy announced Wednesday it is extending the comment period on the rule through April 15 to give interested parties more time to comment.

The Energy Department is considering new efficiency rules for computers and battery backup systems under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. The agency noted that the average household is likely to use more than 100 kilowatt-hours of energy each year.

The Information Technology Industry Council and the Consumer Electronics Association had requested the extension.

The rule was proposed on Feb. 28, but the original comment period expired in March. 

Whistleblower: The Labor Department is moving forward with new whistleblower regulations for people who believe their employers have treated them unfairly.

The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Wednesday announced the rules, which would govern the complaint process and procedures for employees and companies.

The rules would give whistleblowers up to 180 days after an alleged violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act to file a complaint with the Labor secretary. The secretary must then notify the accused of the complaint, the allegations contained in the complaint, and the evidence supporting the complaint. Both sides would then have 60 days to respond and would meet with an OSHA investigator.

If OSHA rules in favor of the whistleblower, the accused company must take steps to reinstate the employee to his or her former position and provide back pay for the time missed. The accused would also be required to restore the whistleblower's terms, conditions and privileges associated with his or her employment, provide compensatory damages and pay for the whistleblower's legal fees.

The rule goes into effect immediately, though the public has two months to comment. 

Jurisdiction: The Merit Systems Protection Board is considering new rules for determining how jurisdiction is established over board appeals.

The public has one month to comment on the proposed rule. 

Acquisitions: The Department of Defense is tweaking acquisitions regulations to make technical amendments to the rules.

The new rules go into effect immediately.