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  • January 15, 2009

Whistleblower Protections in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

Whistleblower Protections in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

150 150 Gregory A. Hall

The U.S. Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (H.R. 4040) which includes Whistleblower protection for employees in the retail and manufacturing sectors who report product safety violations under the CPS Act.  The CPS Act specifically allows for jury trials. Under the CPS Act, employees of manufacturers, private labelers, distributors and retailers are protected from discrimination, discharge or retaliation because:

  • They provided information related to a violation of, or any act or omission they reasonably believe to be a violation of any provision of the Act or any other law enforced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission;
  • They testified or were about to testify in a proceeding concerning such a violation;
  • They assisted or participated in, or were about to assist or participate in, such a proceeding; or
  • They objected to, or refused to participate in, any activity, policy, practice or assigned task that they (or other such persons) reasonably believed to be a violation of any provision of the Act or any other law enforced by the Commission, or any order, rule, regulation, standard, or ban under such laws.

An employee (whistleblower) who been discharged or otherwise discriminated against in violation of the CPS Act may want to consult with an attorney experienced with whistleblower claims.   The whistleblower may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor of the Department of Labor, who has authority to investigate, determine whether there is any reasonable cause to believe a violation has occurred, conduct a hearing, and order relief. If the Secretary concludes a violation has occurred, the Secretary may order relief to the complainant in the form of abatement of the violation, job reinstatement, compensatory damages, and costs and expenses (including attorneys’ and expert witness fees).  If the Secretary concludes the complaint was frivolous or has been brought in bad faith, the Secretary may award the prevailing employer a reasonable attorneys’ fee, not to exceed $1,000, to be paid by the complainant. The Secretary may file a civil action for noncompliance with one of its orders. The complainant may bring an action in federal court if the Secretary has not issued a final decision within a prescribed time. The court may grant all relief necessary to make the employee whole, including injunctive relief and compensatory damages, including reinstatement, back pay with interest, and litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney’s fees.

Section 219. Whistleblower Protections

Section 219 establishes new whistleblower protections for employees of manufacturers, private labelers, distributors, or retailers of consumer products. Covered employees are protected from discharge or any other form of retaliation resulting from the employee’s provision to the employer, the Federal Government, or a State attorney general of information relating to any violation of statutes or regulations enforced by the CPSC. The whistleblower protections in new Section 40 of the Consumer Product Safety Act do not extend to government employees. An employee of a manufacturer, private labeler, distributor, or retailer of consumer products who believes he or she has suffered an adverse employment action as a result of the employee’s provision of information relating to a violation of statutes or regulations enforced by the CPSC may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor seeking redress. A complaint setting forth the facts and identifying the responsible party must be filed with the Secretary of Labor no later than 180 days after the date on which the violation occurs.

Effective Date: This provision became effective upon enactment, August 14, 2008. For more information on the CPSIA contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission at: http://www.cpsc.gov/

For legal counsel contact Whistleblower Attorney Gregory A. Hall at: http://www.awhistleblowerlawyer.com

Gregory A. Hall
Law Office of Gregory A. Hall
3570 E. 12th Avenue
Denver, CO 80206
Phone: 303-320-0584