The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (“OSHA”) recently approved changes to how whistleblowers may file complaints against firms who violate any of twenty-two statutes related to safety and pollution. Previously, whistleblowers could only file complaints by writing to OSHA, calling a hotline, or calling an OSHA regional office. Now, whistleblowers can file complaints online, by using a simple form, which includes descriptions of allegedly retaliatory acts by the business. This seemingly minor change to modernize OSHA’s processes may have dramatic effects on businesses that must comply with OSHA regulations. By simplifying the filing process, many predict that the volume of whistleblower claims will grow dramatically.
How may this affect your business? Now that your employees can file claims online, they may be more likely to notify OSHA of potential violations than they were before. Therefore, you should consider revising your own internal processes regarding OSHA complaints to include these changes and the possibility of additional complaints filed against your business. Your supervisors should know how to respond if employees raise a complaint, and how they should respond to employees who actually file complaints. Even if the employee does not contact OSHA, you should proactively investigate any safety complaints. By actively investigating complaints, you decrease the likelihood of the employee seeking outside counsel because you do not seem interested in rectifying a safety concern. Make sure that your employees are current on all OSHA training requirements and safety regulations, and that the standards required by OSHA are followed. Taking these steps will help you identify and address potential OSHA violations, rectify safety concerns, and respond to employee complaints promptly.
The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) recently brought enforcement actions against dealerships regarding their online advertising practices. The most discussed enforcement action targeted dealers who made claims related to negative equity online. Afterwards there was some confusion as to the extent of the FTC’s application of consumer protection laws to online advertisements. Last week the FTC issued guidance that clarified its position on what kinds of online advertisements would be considered deceptive and unfair. While you can obtain a copy of the publication by clicking here, I have provided a brief overview of key parts of the guidelines below:
- The same consumer protection laws that apply to commercial activities in other media apply online, including activities in the mobile marketplace. The FTC Act’s prohibition on “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” encompasses online advertising, marketing, and sales.
- Your advertisements should contain disclosures located close to “trigger terms” like sale price, payments, etc. It is not enough to include a hyperlink to a separate webpage with the disclosure. You also should evaluate the effectiveness of these disclosures by staying abreast of where consumers look and do not look on your webpage.
- If limitations of a particular online media make disclosure unfeasible, you should consider not using that media to advertise offers containing “trigger terms.” For example, the social media website Twitter limits communications to 140 characters. Any advertisements on Twitter that contain “trigger terms” must include disclosures that fit within the character limit.
- Your disclosures must be legible regardless of the device consumers use to view the advertisement. You will need to make sure that consumers can view your advertisements and disclosures on a variety of devices, such as desktop computers, laptop computers, tablets, and smartphones.
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