By Associated Press • 

Oregon lawmaker wants to expand whistleblower protections

SALEM — An Oregon lawmaker has introduced a bill to expand whistleblower protections in the state.

Republican State Senator Jackie Winters said former Oregon Department of Transportation employee Gerritt Law inspired the bill, the Statesman Journal reported .

Law informed his superiors about problems he found after taking the job in 2013. He then was fired.

Law's concerns included employees’ lack of safety training in dangerous conditions, and costly equipment being purchased without compatibility testing and not working.

Law's complaints eventually triggered investigations that confirmed many of his concerns. The state settled Law's retaliation lawsuit for $95,000.

Winters said Law's story made her think about how important it is to ensure public employees are free to raise concerns without fear of retaliation.

Oregon state law already disallows public and private employers from retaliating against employees who report in good faith information the employee believes is a violation of a state or federal law or regulation. That could include sexual harassment, failure to provide required breaks, or unfair trade practices.

Oregon's public-sector whistleblower law also protects public employees from retaliation for disclosing any information the employee reasonably believes is evidence of mismanagement, gross misuse or waste or public resources or funds, abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.

Winters’ bill allows state-employee whistleblowers to remain anonymous, and sets up a complaint reporting procedure.

The proposed legislation also directs the state Bureau of Labor and Industries to study whistleblowing activities in Oregon and produce a report and recommendations.

“We know there isn't any real systematic way of training,” Winters said. “We don't have a manual put together that says, ‘Here state employees, here are your rights’.”

The bill will be considered during the 35-day legislative session that begins Feb. 5.

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