The House of Representatives passed the Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act, which prohibits oil and gas companies from terminating or discriminating against offshore employees who report unsafe conditions or refuse to work in unsafe conditions. Closing a significant loophole, the legislation extends whistleblower protections currently in place for onshore oil and gas workers to offshore workers. The legislation also grants employees the right to file a whistleblower retaliation complaint with the Department of Labor (DOL), the right to appeal the DOL’s decision, and the right to a jury trial if the DOL does not issue a decision after 300 days. Relief available to whistleblowers includes reinstatement, back pay with interest, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, litigation costs, and expert witness fees. In support of the bill, Congresswoman Jackson Lee from Texas stated:
It is essential that workers be protected when they raise concerns about unsafe working conditions, and they must have the right to stop working if they fear they could be injured or killed. All workers, especially those in dangerous jobs, are in the best position to discover safety hazards.