Core Provisions: H.R.4040 and S.2663 reform and strengthen the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). S. 2663 includes a whistleblower provision that provides employees with a procedure for bringing whistleblower complaints about consumer products to the attention of the DOL. After a specified period of time, either 90 days from a DOL determination or 210 days from the filing of the complaint (where the DOL fails to make a timely determination), employees may bring suit in federal court. Prevailing plaintiffs may receive compensatory and consequential damages, fees and costs, including reasonable attorneys’ and expert fees and up to $250,000 in punitive damages. Courts may also issue injunctive relief.
The bill contains a fee-shifting mechanism, under which the employer is fined all fees and costs when an adverse determination is made against it by the DOL. The legislation discourages bad faith or frivolous claims brought by disgruntled employees, providing for a mechanism by which DOL may award reasonable attorneys fees up to $1,000 when finding such an unmeritorious claim exists.
H.R.4040 does not contain a comparable whistleblower provision.
Status: S.2663 was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Pryor (D-AR) on February 25, 2008, and was passed by the Senate by a vote of 79-13 on March 6, 2008. H.R.4040 was introduced by Rep. Rush (D-IL) on November 1, 2007, and passed unanimously on December 19, 2007. S.2663 and H.R.4040 await conference committee action.