Darrell Whitman, a former San Francisco-based investigator for the Whistleblower Protection Program administered by OSHA, was fired from his position after attempting to protect other workers within the agency that had been wrongfully fired.
The workers he was defending were also whistleblowers that had called out illegal activity and public safety concerns. OSHA, however, saw that their reports had fallen on deaf ears.
Whitman pushed a little too hard for OSHA's comfort.
"They got rid of the squeaky wheel," he says.
In early 2015, Whitman had alerted his bosses at OSHA that people within the company had bee closing complaints without dealing with them in an effort to clear a backlog of cases. Additionally, he claimed that his boss had been altering his reports, changing his conclusions and dismissing his cases even when Whitman found they had merit.
"I was going to report what I thought to be violations of law and policy," Whitman said. "They were going to have to answer to those reports and they didn’t like that. I had gone through every conceivable channel and what I saw was inaction."
Whitman was, then, fired for six reasons, including "lack of candor during an investigatory meeting" and "unauthorized release of government documents."
He is now fighting back, filing a complainant before the Office of Special Counsel, another government agency that protects federal employees from retaliation for whistleblowing. If his case is won, he could receive a settlement with OSHA or financial reinstatement.
The case goes beyond Whitman, though. His lawyer, Tom Devine, the legal director for the Government Accountability Project, believes that cases like this set a standard of practice for whistleblowers and the way government agencies treat them.
He believes that more people can come forward, creating a snowball effect, and that Whitman's allegations "ring true based on my own experience and based on complaints of lawyers who investigate whistleblowers." He goes on to say that "when we start hearing from people who are responsible to protect whistleblowers, it really strikes a chord."