This was a vote on passage of legislation prohibiting employers involved in offshore oil drilling from discriminating against who report suspected safety violations to federal or state officials [these employees are known as “whistleblowers]. The bill allowed employees to file a complaint (accusing their employers of discrimination) with the Labor Department within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory action. Democrats brought up this bill in response to the BP oil spill on April 20, 2010 that wreaked environmental havoc on the Gulf Coast region of the United States.
Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the chairman of the committee that drafted the bill, urged members to support it: “No worker should ever have to choose between his or her life and their livelihood, but that's a decision these workers face….this bill is narrowly tailored and will protect offshore workers who call for a timeout for safety….Specifically, H.R. 5851 [the whistleblower protection bill] will prohibit discrimination against employees who report violations of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. It protects workers who report injuries or unsafe conditions to an employer or the government, and protects workers who refuse to perform on the assigned task when there is a reasonable belief of injury or spill.”
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) also urged support for the bill: “Now, following the Gulf of Mexico disaster, it is clearer than ever that providing strong protections to offshore oil and gas workers would be a positive step in encouraging workers to speak out about work safety and health issues at the worksite. Obviously, inspectors cannot be at all workplaces at all times, and so the system relies on willingness of employees to come forward, because these employees, these workers, know their worksite better than anyone else. Yet too many workers fear doing so because they fear repercussions. They don't fear imagined repercussions; they fear real ones.”
Rep. John Kline (R-MN) argued the bill would create a new layer of bureaucracy that would lead to legal confusion with respect to whistleblower protection law: “H.R. 5851 creates a brand-new whistleblower framework for any individual directly or indirectly involved with a company that drills on the Outer Continental Shelf. We all agree on the need to clarify protections for workers on the rigs, but what about other workers, those who are already covered by other law? H.R. 5851 adds a new layer of legal processes, deadlines, and remedies for workers who are already covered. It creates legal confusion, particularly for those workers who would now be covered by parallel and possibly conflicting statutes.”
Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) urged opposition to the bill: “…What we've gotten from this [Democratic] majority is an unserious response, a political response more interested in taking advantage of the latest crisis….With this Congress, all the serious policy issues are secondary to the politics. Instead, what we get is a bill that establishes a whole new bureaucracy, a whole new whistleblower framework for a specific class of workers.”
The House passed this whistleblower protection bill by a vote of 315-93. 247 Democrats and 68 Republicans voted “yea.” 92 Republicans and 1 Democrat voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation prohibiting employers involved in offshore oil drilling from discriminating against who report suspected safety violations to federal or state officials.