“They got rid of the squeaky wheel,” Whitman said.
He now views his own termination from OSHA as retaliation for raising red flags about the agency.
“I was going to report what I thought to be violations of law and policy,” Whitman said. “They were going to have to answer to those reports and they didn’t like that.”
Whitman tried to warn OSHA leaders. His managers pressured investigators to close complaints without proper review to clear a backlog of cases. He also testified his supervisor altered his reports, changing his conclusions and dismissing cases even when they had merit.
Whitman wrote letters to OSHA and the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez. Wrong move.
And when you shake the boat whose business it is to shake boats, you get thrown overboard.
In a Notice of Removal written in May, OSHA states it fired Whitman for six different reasons including “lack of candor during an investigatory meeting” and “unauthorized release of government documents.”
Whitman is now a complainant before another government agency which protects federal employees from retaliation for whistleblowing. If he is successful, Whitman’s claim could result in a settlement with OSHA or include financial reinstatement.
A critic of OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program, Tom Devine who is defending Whitman, believes his allegations have merit.
“They ring true based on my own experience and based on complaints of lawyers who investigate whistleblowers,” Devine said. “Then when we start hearing from people who are responsible to protect whistleblowers, it really strikes a chord.”
OSHA declined to comment on Whitman’s situation because it is an ongoing personnel case. In an email, OSHA acknowledged problems with the Whistleblower Protection Program but said the agency is taking steps to improve the program.
Whitman risked, and lost, his job to expose what he calls OSHA’s failure to protect public health and safety. He says he hopes his story will lead the government to reform the Whistleblower Protection Program.
Source: NBC News