Increased Focus on Prosecution of Workplace Safety Violations

Noelle Holladay True ([email protected])

Legal representation is always helpful when contesting monetary penalties associated with violations of workplace safety laws, but now legal counsel is even more important to offer protection to companies and individuals who may be criminally charged with such violations.

Last month, the Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of Justice (DOJ) signed an agreement to cooperate with one another in the investigation and prosecution of workplace safety violations. The December 17, 2015 Memorandum of Understanding between DOL and DOJ applies to workplace violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), 29 U.S.C. §§ 651-678, and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act), 30 U.S.C. §§ 801-965. The OSH Act provides criminal sanctions for a willful violation that results in the death of an employee, while the Mine Act provides criminal sanctions for the knowing or willful violation of a mandatory standard. In addition, both Acts provide criminal sanctions for giving advance notice of inspection activity, and for the falsification of documents required to be kept under the Acts.

DOJ determines whether to prosecute for violations of all federal statutes, including ones occurring under the OSH and Mine Acts. Under the new initiative, prosecutors are encouraged to add other criminal charges that often occur with workplace safety violations, such as charges of making false statements, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and conspiracy. DOL has committed to increased information sharing with DOJ, including making its investigative files available for case development or litigation (if otherwise permitted by law), and DOJ is encouraged to consider the DOL’s criminal referrals.



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