Section 219 – Whistleblower Protections for Employees Who Disclose Unsafe Products The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which was signed into law on August 2008, provides whistleblower protections to employees who report unsafe products.1 Specifically, Section 219 protects employees who report to their employer, the federal government, or a state attorney general potential violations of any statute or regulation within the jurisdiction of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). It covers employees of consumer product manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers, and private labelers. Before the CPSIA passed2: Before Congress passed the CPSIA, individuals who bravely blew the whistle on practices that contributed to unsafe products had few to no options for defending themselves against retaliation from the employer. For example: • A quality control manager was fired after telling management that its baby play station could tip over and harm infants; • A product engineer was fired for informing management that lighting products violated federal safety standards and were being sold without legally-required testing; • A project engineer was fired after warning the CPSC that his company continued to sell faulty home furnaces even after he warned the company about the defect which resulted in a disastrous home fire; • A toxicology director was fired after objecting to illegal levels of cancer-causing Benzene in gasoline. CPSIA’s Whistleblower Protections: The CPSIA’s whistleblower provision establish robust anti-retaliation rights for employees and protects them from retaliation for disclosing to authorities any type of violation of product safety laws and regulations. In particular, the law give employees the right to: • File a complaint within a 180 days of the retaliation; • Request an investigation and interim relief by the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the agency responsible for enforcing workplace safety standards; • An administrative hearing and, after exhausting administrative remedies, a jury trial. • A wide range of remedies including reinstatement, back pay, attorney’s fees, and compensatory and special damages. In order to prevail, an employee must prove that his or her whistleblowing was a “contributing factor” in the action taken against them. Improving the Law: 1 2 These whistleblower examples were compiled by the Government Accountability Project