This story was reported by FairWarning, a nonprofit news organization based in Los Angeles that focuses on public health, safety and environmental issues.FairWarningDarrell WhitmanFor nearly five years, Darrell Whitman was a federal investigator who probed whistleblowers\u2019 complaints about being fired or otherwise punished for exposing alleged corporate misconduct.He wanted to help whistleblowers, viewing them as a crucial line of defense against employers who violated health and safety standards or wasted taxpayer dollars.But now Whitman, 70, is blowing the whistle himself. And he is accusing the agency where he used to work, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the branch of the Labor Department whose duties include protecting whistleblowers.Whitman, in a whistleblower claim filed this month with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, charges that the San Francisco regional office of OSHA\u2019s Whistleblower Protection Program routinely dumped legitimate complaints. What\u2019s more, Whitman\u2019s complaint says his disclosures to senior OSHA and Labor Department officials \u2013 all the way up to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez \u2014 \u201cdid not spark good faith corrective action. Rather, they led to investigations of Mr. Whitman that eventually formed the basis for his termination\u201d last May. He claims that three other investigators who protested the office\u2019s practices also were fired or pushed out.The result, Whitman claims, is that safety hazards and wasteful spending persist while whistleblowers often are silenced by employers that get away with illegal retaliation.Whitman\u2019s complaint largely tracks the concerns he raised in letters to federal officials (examples here andhere) and in interviews with FairWarning and previously with KNTV (NBC in the Bay Area). He zeroes in on his former boss, Joshua Paul, and other officials in OSHA\u2019s San Francisco regional office, which oversees California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii.Sometimes, Whitman said, Paul ordered investigators to water down their findings or reversed the findings without explanation. In other instances, Whitman said, cases would be closed out after quickie investigations that barely examined the retaliation claims. Other times, he said, Paul dragged his feet in completing investigations for three years or more, apparently to put pressure on whistleblowers to settle.\u2018The companies would scream bloody murder\u2019Whitman told FairWarning that those problems in San Francisco reflect a broader breakdown across the 10 regional OSHA offices that administer the whistleblower program. He maintains that the program often is too cozy with business to take on rogue employers. \u201cThere\u2019s open hostility within OSHA to this program,\u201d Whitman said.If the program did its job, \u201cthe companies would scream bloody murder,\u201d added Whitman, an attorney with a PhD in politics who has taught college, served as a campaign consultant and worked as a lawyer in government and private practice.Whitman\u2019s complaint calls for his reinstatement, back pay and damages, while also seeking an investigation of Paul \u201cand any other relevant DOL officials.\u201dFairWarningJordan BarabOSHA disputed Whitman\u2019s allegations. In a written response, Jordan Barab, a Labor Department deputy assistant secretary, said: \u201cTo suggest that OSHA is not committed to protecting workers or that it is arbitrarily dismissing cases is not only absurd, it\u2019s a huge disservice to the investigators who work hard to protect the rights of whistleblowers across the country. The Whistleblower Protection Program is a small staff with an enormous task, and that staff is committed, at every level of the organization, to protecting the rights of workers and to upholding the law.\u201dAs for Paul, in November he moved from his job as senior investigator overseeing whistleblower investigations in San Francisco to a new role as coordinator of the region\u2019s alternative dispute resolution program, which works on whistleblower cases. OSHA said the job change was unrelated to Whitman\u2019s allegations. OSHA turned down a request for an interview with Paul, saying it \u201cwould not be appropriate\u201d for him to respond to Whitman\u2019s allegations.OSHA is responsible for enforcing whistleblower provisions under 22 federal laws that cover everything from nuclear power plants and public transit to the trucking, railroad and airline industries. But as Congress has assigned OSHA one category of workers after another, some critics say its staff has been swamped by the added workload, creating incentives to dismiss cases to keep up.Whitman\u2019s complaint cites six cases that he says were mishandled. One involved a nuclear plant official who said he lost his job after discussing security problems with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.FairWarningMichael MadryAnother case involved Michael Madry. He was a Phoenix-based quality assurance specialist for EMLab P&K, which describes itself as North America\u2019s \u201cleading commercial indoor air quality testing laboratory.\u201dAccording to court records, Madry, 51, was promoted to quality assurance manager at EMLab in May 2008. Over the next year, Madry received reports from outside auditors questioning the accuracy of the firm\u2019s asbestos testing as well as complaints from lab analysts about being pressured to rush through asbestos tests.Madry investigated, focusing on the company\u2019s San Bruno, Calif., lab, which tested for asbestos at schools and for the U.S. Navy and other customers. He became increasingly concerned about the accuracy of tests, and repeatedly raised the issue with company officials.Soon he began getting poor performance reviews and, according to court records, the company president complained in an internal memo of his \u201cemotional outbursts and obvious instability.\u201dOn Sept. 30, 2010, soon after being put on medical leave by a psychiatrist, Madry filed his whistleblower complaint.Whitman investigated and in July 2011 found that the complaint had merit. But then the case languished.As Whitman recounts in his own complaint, Paul delayed action for almost a year by requiring four rewrites of his merit findings, and also pushed for Madry to accept \u201ca nuisance settlement.\u201d According to Whitman, after he complained to OSHA chief David Michaels, Paul removed Whitman from the case. Whitman told FairWarning that he eventually saved the case by going over his boss\u2019 head and getting the whistleblower program\u2019s national director to step in.\u2018The system, it doesn\u2019t work\u2019Three years of legal skirmishes followed for Madry. As a Nov. 16 trial before an administrative law judge was about to begin, Madry reached a settlement totaling $122,500 with EMLab. The company declined to comment after the settlement but, in an earlier interview, an EMLab spokesperson gave a blanket denial of Madry\u2019s claims, without discussing specifics.The struggle, in Madry\u2019s view, wasn\u2019t worth it. \u201cI wouldn\u2019t recommend anybody do what I did, just because the system, it doesn\u2019t work,\u201d he said.\u201cHere I am, more than five years later,\u201d he added, \u201cand I\u2019m no better off than when I filed my complaint.\u201d Nilgun Tolek, who headed OSHA\u2019s whistleblower program until 2011, said she wasn\u2019t familiar with the evidence behind Whitman\u2019s allegations. However, she cautioned against assuming that when an administrator overturns an investigator\u2019s finding there is \u201cill intent.\u201d\u201cIt\u2019s always the case that what the investigator recommends in a report is subject to further review and may not end up holding water in the end. It\u2019s not an individual person\u2019s report. It\u2019s the agency\u2019s report, and it has to go through all kinds of review,\u201d Tolek said.Although Whitman\u2019s case is novel for OSHA, it\u2019s not the only time whistleblower defenders have been accused of mistreating their own employees. Two lawyers formerly with the National Whistleblowers Center, a nonprofit legal group in Washington, in late 2014 received an undisclosed sum to settle their complaints (here and here) that the organization fired them and also retaliated against other employees who tried to unionize. The settlement came shortly before a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge was set to hear the case. The National Whistleblowers Center did not admit any wrongdoing.Flawed investigations by OSHA\u2019s Whistleblower Protection Program and growing case backlogs were cited last fall in a report by the Labor Department\u2019s inspector general.In an audit tracking October 2012 through March 2014, the inspector general found problems in 24 of 132 randomly selected complaints. Among other deficiencies, investigators failed to contact complainants\u2019 witnesses and to give complainants the time needed to provide evidence.OSHA also failed to meet deadlines on 3,206 of the 4,475 complaints it received that warranted investigations. The investigations took an average of 238 days to complete, up from 150 days in 2010, when previous federal audits lambasted the agency for poor performance.OSHA management, in response, acknowledged that improvements were needed. But the agency also noted that the number of new complaints climbed to 3,060 in the 2014 fiscal year, up 58 percent from 2005.\u201cConsequently, OSHA still lacks the resources that it needs to process and investigate whistleblower complaints with the expedience that we would like, while also maintaining the quality and thoroughness that is appropriate,\u201d the agency said.Stuart Silverstein is assistant editor at FairWarning.