OSHA has published a final rule at that establishes procedures and time frames for handling retaliation complaints under the Seaman's Protection Act (SPA). The Act protects seamen from retaliation for engaging in certain protected activity, such as providing information to the government about violations of maritime safety laws or regulations.

The final rule also establishes procedures and time frames for hearings before Department of Labor administrative law judges; review of those decisions by the Department of Labor Administrative Review Board: and judicial review of final decisions.

The rule also provides important interpretations of SPA. For example, it defines "seaman" as any person employed in any capacity on board a U.S.-flag vessel or any other vessel owned by a United States citizen. The final rule provides a more comprehensive definition of "citizen of the United States" than the interim final rule did, including, among other entities, corporations incorporated in the United Sates.

"Seamen should be free to exercise their rights under the law without fear of termination or other retaliation by their employers," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "This final rule makes good on the promise to stand by those workers who have the courage to come forward when they believe their employers are violating maritime safety laws."

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and 21 other statutes. These provisions protect employees from retaliation for reporting violations of various laws by their employers and for engaging in related activities. Additional information is available on OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Programs webpage.