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OSHA Issues New Guidance for Consumer Credit Whistleblowers

5/7/2014

On April 3, 2014, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued an interim final rule that establishes procedures and time frames for handling retaliation complaints under the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA). OSHA has invited the public to comment on the interim final rule by June 3, 2014. While most employers and employees think of OSHA as the agency responsible for enforcing the federal regulations related to workplace health and safety, OSHA is also charged with enforcing the whistleblower protections of 21 other statutes that protect employees who report 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 regulations.

One of the above statutes that OSHA is charged with enforcing is the CFPA. The CFPA was enacted on July 21, 2010, and includes provisions that protect employees against retaliation by entities that offer or provide consumer financial products or services. These services include a variety of financial products and/or services that are primarily offered for use by consumers for personal, family or household purposes, such as residential mortgage lending and servicing, private student lending and servicing, payday lending, consumer credit reporting, credit cards and related activities and prepaid debit cards. The interim final rule establishes procedures, burdens of proof, remedies and statutes of limitations similar to other whistleblower protection statutes that OSHA enforces. Under the CFPA, “protected activities” include providing information relating to any violation of the act or any other provision of law that is subject to the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (the “Bureau”), or any rule, order, standard, or prohibition prescribed by the Bureau to employers, the Bureau, any other Federal, state or local government authority or law enforcement agency, testifying in, filing or instituting proceedings under any of these provisions or objecting or refusing to participate in any conduct that the employee reasonably believes violates any of these provisions. Covered employees include any individual who performs tasks related to the offering or provision of a consumer financial product or service. While “retaliation” under the CFPA includes termination of employment, it also includes, but is not limited to, reducing pay or hours, reassignment, demotion, discipline, blacklisting, threatening and other adverse employment actions.

OSHA has also developed a new fact sheet, Filing Whistleblower Complaints under the Consumer Financial Protection Act* which explains these provisions further and is available at www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3720.pdf.