A new law signed by President Obama last month, the Food Safety and Modernization Act, protects food industry workers from retaliation for reporting what they believe to be health violations. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, whistleblowers cannot be fired, demoted or denied promotions for reporting anything they reasonably believe violates the Food Safety Act.
Employees also have the right to refuse to do work that they reasonably believe to be illegal without fear of retaliation. The idea behind the law is to have people on the front lines reporting safety problems before they become a hazard to public health.
Workers are protected at FDA-regulated food businesses. The burden of proof is with the employee. Initially, workers just need to show that a negative action against them may have occurred in part because of a federally protected activity.
Employers have a higher burden of proof. Employers must demonstrate thoroughly and with clear and convincing evidence that they would have taken the same action against the employee if they had not been a whistleblower.
Meatpacking and poultry industries are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, whistleblowers in those industries are not currently protected from retaliation for reporting safety violations, but the Government Accountability Project, a non-profit whistleblowing organization, says they are working on legislation to cover workers in those industries as well.
New food safety law protects whistleblowers (Bloomberg Businessweek)