whistleblowerEmployees who are retaliated against for reporting violations of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance reforms will get whistleblower protection, under an interim final rule announced recently by OSHA.

The rule governs whistleblower complaints filed under Section 1558 of the Act. The Act contains various provisions to make health insurance more affordable and accountable to consumers. Among the policies to achieve its goals, the Act's Section 1558 provides protection to employees against retaliation by an employer for reporting alleged violations of Title I of the act or for receiving a tax credit or cost-sharing reduction as a result of participating in a Health Insurance Exchange or Marketplace.

Title I includes a range of insurance company accountability policies, such as the prohibition of lifetime limits on coverage and exclusions due to pre-existing conditions. If an employee reports a violation of one of these policies or requirements, the act's whistleblower provision prohibits employers from retaliating against the employee. If an employee is retaliated against in violation of the whistleblower provision, he or she may file a complaint with, and ultimately receive relief from, OSHA or the courts.

The Affordable Care Act authorizes the secretary of labor to conduct investigations into complaints and issue determinations, which are functions delegated to OSHA. OSHA's interim final rule establishes the procedures and time frames for the filing and handling of such complaints, including investigations by OSHA, appeals of OSHA determinations to an administrative law judge for a hearing, review of such decisions by the Administrative Review Board and judicial review of the secretary's final decision.

The interim final rule can be viewed at www.dol.gov/find/20130222/. Comments, which will be accepted for 60 days, may be submitted electronically via the federal e-rulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov, or by mail or fax. Faxed submissions, including attachments, must not exceed 10 pages and should be sent to the OSHA Docket Office at 202-693-1648. Comments submitted by mail should be addressed to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. OSHA-2011-0193, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-2625, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20210.

A fact sheet about filing whistleblower complaints under the Affordable Care Act is available at www.osha.gov/Publications/whistleblower/OSHAFS-3641.pdf.*