Timeliness is in the Eye of the Beholder - OSHA and NLRB Referral Program to Address Otherwise Time-Barred OSHA Workplace Complaints

May 22, 2014 By Labor and Employment
Legal Update

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have found a creative way around the 30-day statute of limitations to file an OSHA whistleblower complaint – outsource it!  NLRB Associate General Counsel Anne Purcell announced that the NLRB has entered into a referral program with OSHA to direct time-barred OSHA whistleblower complaints to the NLRB for further investigation.

The NLRB and OSHA partnership is designed to ensure that certain workplace complaints don’t go unaddressed due to an untimely filing.  Unlike the OSHA 30-day filing deadline, under the National Labor Relations Act, individuals have up to six months to file an unfair labor practice.  According to the NLRB, OSHA whistleblower charges “may also raise claims arising under the National Labor Relations Act; for example, instances of employer retaliation for group complaints concerning unsafe working conditions. These complaints may still be timely under our six-month statute of limitations.”  Consequently, claimants who fail to timely file OSHA whistleblower charges will now be referred to the NLRB to “inquire” about filing an unfair labor practice charge instead.  

The alliance between OSHA and the NLRB will undoubtedly impact employers who can anticipate an increase in unfair labor practice charges that otherwise would have been dismissed as untimely filed OSHA whistleblower complaints.

For more information, please contact Catherine Lacho, Anne McNab, or any member of the Frost Brown Todd Labor and Employment practice group.