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Proskauer Whistleblower Defense

Secretary of Labor Announces Appointees to Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee

Posted in OSHA Administration

On December 13, 2012, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced the inaugural appointees of the Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee (WPAC).  WPAC was established to “advise, consult with, and make recommendations to the Secretary of Labor and the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) on ways to improve the fairness, efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of OSHA’s administration of whistleblower protections.”  The WPAC is comprised of 12 voting members: 3 members represent the public;  4 members represent management; 4 members represent labor; and 1 member represents OSHA State Plans.  There are also 3 non-voting members of WPAC representing federal agencies.  The newly announced members are:

Representing the public:

  • Jonathan Brock, retired Associate Professor, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington; and Chairman, Hanford Concerns Council
  • Richard Moberly, Associate Dean, University of Nebraska
  • Emily Spieler,  Edwin W. Hadley Professor of Law, Northeastern School of Law (chairperson)

Representing management:

  • David Eherts, Vice President & Chief Safety Officer, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation
  • Gregory Keating, Shareholder, Littler Mendelson, P.C.
  • Marcía Narine, Visiting Professor at University of Missouri, and Compliance Consultant, MDO Partners
  • Kenneth Wengert, C.S.P., A.R.M., Director of Safety, Environment, and Business Continuity Planning, Kraft Foods

Representing labor:

  • Ava Barbour, Associate General Counsel, International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America
  • Eric Frumin, Health and Safety Director, Change to Win
  • Billie Garde, Partner, Clifford & Garde, LLP
  • Nancy Lessin, Program Director, United Steelworkers’ Tony Mazzocchi Center for Health, Safety, and Environmental Education

Representing OSHA State Plans:

  • Christine Dougherty, Discrimination Investigator, Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry

Non-voting members represent federal agencies:

  • Rina Tucker Harris, Enforcement Attorney, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  • John Van Steenburg, Chief Safety Officer, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
  • Jason Zuckerman, Senior Legal Advisor, United States Office of Special Counsel

Of the committee members who “represent the public,” the appointees seem to heavily favor employee rights, as all of their backgrounds reflect employee advocacy and little or no experience working directly with or on behalf of management.  More specifically, Jonathan Brock formerly worked at the U.S. Department of Labor, where he held several positions, including Executive Director for a task force on state and local government labor-management practices.  He is also currently the Chairman of the Hanford Concerns Council, an organization that assists employees in addressing and resolving concerns with their employers about safety, workplace issues, or environmental hazards.  Richard Moberly has published articles in which he was highly critical of Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower protections as being inadequate.  He has also been critical of OSHA with respect to its enforcement of the whistleblower statute. He previously testified at Congress’ Whistleblower Protection Hearing in 2007, where Proskauer’s Lloyd Chinn testified as well.  Chairperson Emily Spieler is the former Commissioner of the West Virginia Workers’ Compensation Fund as well as the former Deputy Attorney General for Civil Rights in West Virginia.  She is also a former solo practitioner specializing in labor, employment and civil rights law.  Her practice focused on the legal problems of workers.