Employment News & Info

Whistleblower Clause Protects Food, Agricultural Workers From Retaliation

A Food Safety Modernization Act clause will allow food and agricultural workers protection should they raise the flag on unsafe practices. Section 402 protects privately employed food and agriculture workers who take action reporting food safety concerns. Under the clause, such workers cannot be discharged or punished for their whistleblowing.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the agency responsible for enforcing these new provisions. They oversee 20 such whistleblower rules, all of which protect workers from retaliation after blowing the whistle on unsafe practices in the workplace.

Many of the FSMA provisions have taken years to enact, but the whistleblowing clause went into effect the moment President Obama signed the law in 2011. Since that time, OSHA has been collecting complaints from food and agriculture workers about food safety.

Before this clause was put into place, people who complained about food safety in the workplace could be fired and retaliated against for speaking up. A Texas peanut plant employee tried to raise the flag about products contaminated with salmonella. Unfortunately, his concerns went unheard and nine people were sickened and killed by the contaminated peanut products. Thousands of others were also made sick by the peanuts.

Unfortunately, the man and his family now live in poverty, in spite of his attempt to do what was right. This is a story that is far too common among whistleblowers of all industries. Thankfully, this clause should help put a stop to retaliation and punishment of people like the peanut whistleblower.

Have You Witnessed Illegal Practices?

If you have been brave enough to reveal unsafe, fraudulent, or deceitful practices within your company, you should not be punished.  If you are aware of unsafe, fraudulent, or deceitful practices within your company, but have not come forward, you need guidance.  In both instances, you deserve the protection that the law affords you. Do not stand by and be bullied into silence by your company.