As we have had to do too often the last couple of years, Conn Maciel Carey’s OSHA Team is organizing a flat fee-based rulemaking coalition of employers and trade groups to collaborate to work on submitting public comments on this new proposal and otherwise participate in the rulemaking process to advocate for the most manageable possible E-Recordkeeping Rule.
We held a kickoff call for the coalition earlier this week. If you were unable to attend, we are pleased to share links to the recording and a copy of the slides that we used. We expect to have a follow up virtual meeting in May to solicit detailed input from coalition participants and review our advocacy strategy.
There is still time to join our coalition if your organization would like to partner with us on this rulemaking. OSHA requested public comments to be submitted by May 31, 2022.
ANNOUNCING CONN MACIEL CAREY’S
2022 OSHA WEBINAR SERIES
A full year into the Biden Administration, the senior leadership team at federal OSHA is set, the agency’s new regulatory agenda has been revealed, and the enforcement landscape has begun to take shape, revealing a dramatic shift in priorities, including stronger enforcement, higher budgets and more robust policies protecting workers, and a renewed focus on new rulemaking. Following an Administration that never installed an Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, relied almost exclusively on the General Duty Clause to enforce COVID-19 safety measures, drastically curtailed rulemaking, and declined to issue an emergency COVID-19 standard, the pendulum swing at OSHA has already been more pronounced than during past transitions. Accordingly, it is more important now than ever before for employers to stay attuned to developments at OSHA.
Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s complimentary 2022 OSHA Webinar Series, which includes monthly programs (sometimes more often, if events warrant) put on by the OSHA-focused attorneys in the firm’s national OSHA Practice Group, is designed to give employers insight into developments at OSHA during this period of unpredictability and significant change.
To register for an individual webinar in the series, click on the link in the program description below, or to register for the entire 2022 series, click here to send us an email request so we can get you registered. If you missed any of our programs over the past seven years of our annual OSHA Webinar Series, here is a link to a library of webinar recordings. If your organization or association would benefit from an exclusive program presented by our team on any of the subjects in this year’s webinar series or any other important OSHA-related topic, please do not hesitate to contact us.
We hate that we have to do this again, but alas, as we reported late last week, on Thursday, September 9th, President Biden announced that he is directing OSHA to issue a new Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that would require many employers to provide paid time for employees to get and recover from getting vaccinated and to implement “soft” vaccine mandates; i.e., require employees either to be fully vaccinated or get weekly COVID-19 testing, as well as issuing new Executive Orders requiring federal contractors to implement “hard” vaccine mandates.
While we anticipated OSHA would reconsider the need for a broader COVID-19 ETS applicable beyond just the healthcare sector in light of the impact of the Delta variant, President Biden’s decision to use a new ETS focused on vaccinations and testing as a central element of his newly unveiled Path Out of the Pandemic – COVID-19 Action Plan raises a host of challenges for employers across the country. We understand from our contacts at OSHA that the agency will move much more quickly to prepare and send this ETS to the White House, so it is imperative that the employer community come together now to identify shared concerns and considerations and begin advocating to OSHA and OMB so that this new ETS is one with which industry can reasonably manage.
To that end, Conn Maciel Carey LLP is organizing a fee-based company-anonymous coalition of employers and trade groups to advocate for the most reasonable fed OSHA COVID-19 emergency rule focused on vaccination and testing possible.Continue reading →
On September 9, 2021, President Biden charged federal OSHA with developing a second emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring all but small employers in all industries but healthcare to implement “soft” vaccine mandates, i.e., to require employees to either be fully vaccinated or get weekly COVID-19 testing. The President directed OSHA to include in this new ETS a requirement that these employers provide paid time for employees to get vaccinated and recover from the vaccine. The President also issued executive orders mandating federal contractors and healthcare employers implement “hard” vaccine mandates.
The push now for a broader COVID-19 ETS applicable beyond just healthcare is a step for which we have been bracing for a while now. In June, when OSHA issued its COVID-19 ETS that was limited only to the healthcare industry, the vast majority of employers dodged the bullet, but since the explosion of new cases because of the Delta variant, we began to see that bullet more as a boomerang, likely to come back around for the rest of industry. Here are five signals we picked up that OSHA was likely to revisit its decision in June to limit its COVID-19 ETS to only healthcare employers:
The rate of community transmission and COVID-19 deaths around the country has returned to the level we were experiencing in the Spring of this year when OSHA delivered to OMB a proposed ETS that was written to cover all industries. To the extent the decline in cases and deaths was a major factor in OSHA’s decision to limit the ETS to just healthcare, that factor no longer cuts in favor of a healthcare-only rule.
Since issuing the ETS for healthcare, OSHA has been under pressure from national unions and worker advocacy groups to expand the ETS to all industries, both in the form of written comments during the ETS’s post-issuance comment period and a lawsuit filed by AFL-CIO challenging OSHA’s decision to limit the ETS to just healthcare.
There has been a growing tension between the Biden Administration and certain Republican governors, particular DeSantis in Florida and Abbott in Texas, around mask and vaccine mandates. The Biden Administration could resolve that tension by issuing a specific federal OSHA regulation setting requirements for masking and vaccinations, which would likely preempt conflicting state laws.
The White House has changed its tune about strict COVID-19 protocols and vaccine mandates dramatically since the OSHA ETS was issued. The Administration’s decision to limit the ETS to healthcare only was likely at least partially politically-motivated; i.e., a broad ETS was too unpopular due to the massive decline in COVID-19 cases and deaths. However, we have started to see President Biden take politically risky moves around vaccinations; e.g., reinstituting mask recommendations for vaccinated individuals and setting a “soft” mandate for federal workers and contractors and encouraging industry to set similar mandates. If the politics of aggressive COVID-19 requirements influenced OSHA’s decision to issue a narrow rule in June, it appears the Administration has changed its political calculation in the face of the spread of the Delta variant surge.
Those were the main signals we saw that kept us up at night worried OSHA would deliver to OMB a new or amended COVID-19 ETS that would apply to all industries. But President Biden’s announcements yesterday sent the strongest signal yet that we will soon see further regulatory action from federal OSHA on the COVID-19 front. A lot of questions remain, and we expect those to be answered in time as the new rules take effect, but we wanted to share with you what we know so far, as well as our preliminary thoughts/speculation about some of those questions.
Disciplining employees, a critical tool in enforcing workplace rules, has the potential to create problems, especially when relationships deteriorate and emotions run high. Even in situations where an employer is disciplining for the right reason, if it is handled incorrectly, a costly lawsuit or labor grievance could result. Employers, however, cannot ignore misconduct and/or poor performance that negatively impacts productivity, employee morale, workplace culture, or the organization’s ability to meet key goals. Consistent employee discipline can also benefit employers in litigation, union grievances, and inspections and investigations by the EEOC and OSHA.
This webinar will give you a blueprint to lawfully discipline employee and mitigate the risk of future litigation. Participants in this webinar learned about: Continue reading →
At its core, OSHA’s new guidance was updated to align with CDC’s May 13, 2021 guidance regarding relaxing requirements for vaccinated individuals and advises that, unless otherwise required by another jurisdiction’s laws, rules, or regulations, most employers no longer need to take steps to protect their fully vaccinated workers who are not otherwise at-risk from COVID-19 exposure.
To the extent workers are not vaccinated or are otherwise at risk, however, OSHA states that employers must continue to implement controls to help protect them, include:
enforcing the proper use of face coverings or PPE when appropriate.
Importantly, OSHA recommends employers engage with workers and their representatives to determine how to implement multi-layered interventions to protect unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by taking some combination of these actions: Continue reading →
When the Trump Administration’s OSHA declined repeatedly to issue a COVID-19 emergency temporary standard and otherwise favored issuing guidance over citations, the agency faced a series of lawsuits and legal challenges from worker advocacy groups and national unions. OSHA prevailed in those actions, retaining its primacy and exclusive authority to make workplace safety enforcement decisions. But in the wake of those failed legal challenges, pro-labor advocates and Democratic politicians and policymakers have begun a serious push to establish a private right of action for employees and their representatives under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
OSHA has failed not only to protect workers from existing hazards – ranging from unsecured trenches to infectious diseases like COVID-19 – but has also taken minimal action to tackle emerging risks, such as those associated with climate change, the reshoring of manufacturing jobs, increased automation, and the expansion of artificial intelligence in the workplace. . . . [I]t is time to address the law’s and agency’s shortcomings and chart a course of action to revolutionize worker health and safety for the next 50 years.
Fixing the current system requires an updated and vastly improved labor law that empowers workers to speak up about health and safety hazards, rather than risk their lives out of fear of losing employment and pay. It also requires that workers be empowered to fight back when government agencies fail to enforce safety and health requirements. Our vision is to guarantee all workers a private right of action to enforce violations of the OSH Act, coupled with incentives for speaking up and strong whistleblower protections to ensure workers can and will utilize their new authority.
On November 30, 2020, Cal/OSHA issued its final COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”), with all of its provisions effective immediately. One of those provisions — the exclusion pay and benefits continuation requirements — has been at the center of much controversy.
Typical among these COVID-19 emergency rules, the Cal/OSHA regulations requires employers to exclude from the workplace “COVID-19 cases” as well as employees who experience a “close contact” exposure (i.e., contact within 6′ of a confirmed case for a cumulative 15 minutes). But the Cal/OSHA ETS gets controversial at Sec. 3205(c)(10)(C), where it requires employers to continue and maintain those employees’ earnings, seniority, and all other employment rights and benefits, as if the employee had not been removed from the job. Where permitted by law and when not covered by workers’ compensation, employers may use employer-provided employee sick leave benefits, and may consider benefit payments from public sources, in determining how to maintain earnings, rights and benefits.
There are several important exceptions to these exclusion pay and benefits continuation requirements. For example, the ETS provides that the provision does not kick in for any period of time when the employee is not able to work for reasons other than protecting persons at the workplace from possible COVID-19 transmission. Likewise, the pay and benefits continuation provision does not apply where the employer can demonstrate the employee’s COVID-19 exposure is not work-related. Finally, although not characterized as an “exception” specific to the exclusion pay and benefits provision, the ETS does also carve-out employees who can be temporarily reassigned to work where they do not have contact with other persons until applicable return-to-work requirements are met.
To provide some clarification about this pay and benefits continuation provision (as well as most other elements of the ETS), Cal/OSHA has issued two batches of FAQs, most recently updated January 8th. There are now 10 FAQs related to exclusion pay and benefits, most notable among them: Continue reading →
On January 7, 2021, President-elect Joe Biden announced his much-awaited choice for nominee to serve as Secretary of Labor, selecting Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Mayor Walsh made his mark as a labor leader, ultimately heading the Building and Construction Trades Council from 2011 to 2013. Mr. Walsh was also a full-time legislator, serving in the Massachusetts state legislature for some 17 years before being elected mayor in 2014.
If confirmed, it is expected that Mayor Walsh’s close personal friendship with President-elect Biden will elevate the importance of the Labor Department in President Biden’s cabinet, allowing a Secretary Walsh significant influence in the Administration.
Mayor Walsh’s strong ties to organized labor and his selection follows through on President-elect Biden’s campaign promise to give unions a stronger voice in labor policy in his Administration. Mayor Walsh has a reputation as a “pragmatic deal maker,” and he is respected in Massachusetts by both business and labor for his reasonable approach to solving labor and employment issues facing the state.
Of the many issues likely to be tackled by the Labor Department over the next few years, one of the first and most impactful will be the likely issuance of a federal COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard by OSHA. President-elect Biden has pledged to have OSHA quickly address this issue. If a federal ETS is promulgated, it would replace the current Administration’s approach, which has relied heavily on CDC and agency guidance, as well as existing OSHA standards, like the respiratory protection standard and recordkeeping rules, to issue citations. With respect to COVID-19, under Mayor Walsh’s leadership, the City of Boston implemented a Continue reading →
ANNOUNCING CONN MACIEL CAREY’S
2021 OSHA WEBINAR SERIES
As the Trump Administration hands over the keys to President-Elect Biden and a new Democratic Administration, OSHA’s enforcement and regulatory landscape is set to change in dramatic ways, from shifting enforcement priorities, budgets and policies, to efforts to reignite OSHA’s rulemaking apparatus. Following an Administration that never installed an Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, handled COVID-19 enforcement with a light touch, pumped the brakes on almost all rulemaking in general, and declined to issue an emergency COVID-19 standard in particular, the pendulum swing at OSHA is likely to be more pronounced than during past transitions. Accordingly, it is more important now than ever before to pay attention to OSHA developments.
Conn Maciel Carey’s complimentary 2021 OSHA Webinar Series, which includes (at least) monthly programs put on by the attorneys in the firm’s national OSHA Practice, is designed to give employers insight into developments at OSHA during this period of flux and unpredictability.
To register for an individual webinar in the series, click on the link in the program description below. To register for the entire 2021 series, click here to send us an email request, and we will register you. If you missed any of our programs from the past seven years of our annual OSHA Webinar Series, click here to subscribe to our YouTube channel to access those webinars.
2020 has been another banner year for California employment laws, with legislation and Cal/OSHA rulemaking associated with COVID-19 prevention and reporting taking center stage. In our annual update of new employment laws impacting California private sector employers, we lead off with California’s COVID-19 related laws, given their far-reaching impact on the state’s workforce during the pandemic as employers continue to implement measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. We have also addressed other substantive legislative developments, particularly in the areas of wage and hour law and reporting of employee pay data. Unless otherwise indicated, these new laws will take effect on January 1, 2021.
On November 19, 2020, the California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Standards Board) voted unanimously to adopt an Emergency COVID-19 Prevention Rule following a contentious public hearing with over 500 participants in attendance (albeit virtually). The Emergency Rule was then presented to California’s Office of Administrative Lawfor approval and publication. The Rule brings with it a combination of requirements overlapping with and duplicative of already-existing state and county requirements applicable to employers, as well as a number of new and, in some cases, very burdensome compliance obligations.
The Standards Board’s emergency rulemaking was triggered last May with the submission of a Petition for an emergency rulemaking filed by worker advocacy group WorkSafe and National Lawyers’ Guild, Labor & Employment Committee. The Petition requested the Board amend Title 8 standards to create two new regulations Continue reading →
As employers around the country grapple with the employment law and workplace safety regulatory implications of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus – now called “COVID-19,” the Labor & Employment Law and OSHA specialist attorneys on Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s multi-disciplinary COVID-19 Task Force have been fielding countless questions and helping our clients and friends in industry manage this pandemic.
To aid employers, we have created an extensive index of frequently asked questions with our answers about HR, employment law, and OSHA regulatory related developments and guidance. Here are the categories addressed in the FAQs tool:
We are three years into the Trump Administration, and we have seen a mixed bag of change and business as usual at OSHA in enforcement and rulemaking. We watched late Obama-era OSHA rules get repealed, delayed, or amended and a modest boost in compliance assistance—the sort of policy shifts you expect to see in a transition from a Democratic to a Republican Administration. However, we have seen plenty of the unexpected, such as increases in virtually every enforcement metric, including record numbers of $100K+ enforcement actions. And most surprising of all, OSHA still does not have an Assistant Secretary—the longest ever vacancy for the top job at OSHA—and it seems highly likely the Agency will remain without a Senate-approved leader for the entirety of this presidential term. As we move into an election year, the final year of President Trump’s current term, we expect more reshuffling of OSHA enforcement policies and rulemaking priorities, and surely more surprises, so it is critical to stay abreast of OSHA developments.
Conn Maciel Carey’s complimentary2020 OSHA Webinar Series includes monthly webinars presented by OSHA-specialist attorneys in the firm’s national OSHA Practice designed to give employers insight into developments at OSHA during this remarkable time in OSHA’s history.
This complimentary program will feature panel discussions with current and former representatives from the National Labor Relations Board, OSHA and MSHA addressing key enforcement and regulatory developments. The government representatives will be joined by senior corporate counsel from several multi-national corporations and Conn Maciel Carey’s Labor & Employment and Workplace Safety Law specialist attorneys. The plenary sessions will cover topics including:
A recent California Court of Appeals decision in Townley v. BJ’s Restaurants, Inc., has further defined the scope of reimbursable business expenses under California Labor Code section 2802, this time in the context of slip-resistant shoes for restaurant workers.
A former server filed an action under the California Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA), seeking civil penalties on behalf of herself and other “aggrieved employees” for California Labor Code violations, including the failure to reimburse the cost of slip-resistant shoes. Plaintiff alleged a violation of Labor Code section 2802, which requires an employer to reimburse employees for all necessary expenditures incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of their duties.
Plaintiff argued that, because the restaurant required employees to wear slip-resistant, black, closed-toes shoes for safety reasons, such shoes should be provided free of cost or employees should be reimbursed for their cost.
The Court of Appeal, persuaded by the reasoning in an unpublished Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, Lemus v. Denny’s, Inc., and guidance from the California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), held that section 2802 did not require the restaurant employer to reimburse its employees for the cost of slip-resistant shoes. Specifically, the Court held that the cost of shoes does not qualify as a “necessary expenditure” under section 2802.
Employment relationships can take many forms, and employers’ perceptions of their legal responsibilities for certain workers is not always reality. An employer may classify workers as temporary or independent contractors, but that does not mean DOL will agree. This is particularly challenging due to continuous changes in the law relating to these types of employment relationships.
One particular area in flux over the past several years has been the joint-employer standard, significantly expanding in the Obama-era NLRB decision in Browning-Ferris, but in the wake of change through an ongoing NLRB rulemaking. Similarly, the boundary between employees and independent contractors has also been a moving target. Although the prior administration took the view that a majority of workers are employees in its guidance to employers, the Trump Admin. has signaled a change in direction.
Even where there is not a legal employer-employee relationship, companies may have certain safety and health obligations and potential liabilities depending on their role at multi-employer worksites or the use of temporary workers. Protecting temporary workers and enforcing the responsibilities of host employers and staffing agencies was a priority of OSHA in the Obama Admin. through a Temporary Worker Initiative that continues today. OSHA has also continued to defend its multi-employer worksite enforcement policy through legal challenges.
As Illinois prepares to join the growing ranks of states that have legalized recreational use of marijuana, employers in the Land of Lincoln may find it difficult—if not impossible—to legally maintain a drug-free workplace.
Signed into law on June 25, 2019 by Governor J.B. Pritzker, the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (“CRTA”) goes into effect on January 1, 2020. If you employ workers in Illinois, you now have less than six months to decide whether and how you will continue testing for marijuana. You will also need to lay the groundwork so that you can reduce the risks associated with disciplining and/or discharging employees who appear to be impaired—due to cannabis consumption/use—while at work. While the CRTA lists a number of indicia of impairment that may be used to determine if someone is under the influence, proving that an employee is impaired will likely be easier said than done. Even then, the CRTA requires that you give the allegedly impaired employee an opportunity to respond. When and how you do that, though, remains to be seen.
What the Law Does and Does Not Require
Beginning January 1, 2020, Illinois residents over the age of 21 can legally buy (in licensed stores), possess or use cannabis and cannabis products. Possession is limited to: (1) 30 grams of raw cannabis; (2) cannabis-infused products containing no more than 500 mg of THC; or (3) 5 grams of cannabis product in concentrated form. Non-residents may purchase half those amounts (i.e., 15 grams of cannabis, 250 mg of THC in a cannabis-infused product, or 2.5 grams of concentrated cannabis product).
When OSHA receives a complaint related to employee safety and health or a severe injury report, OSHA often gives the employer an opportunity to respond before it takes the more extreme action of opening an inspection. In addition, when OSHA receives an allegation of retaliation, it must provide the employer a chance to explain why the action of which it is accused was legitimate or did not occur as alleged. These responses are an opportunity for the employer to provide sufficient information to avoid a full-blown OSHA inspection or becoming enmeshed in the litigation of a retaliation claim. A strong and thorough response could resolve OSHA’s concerns and resolve the retaliation complaint in a favorable manner for the employer.
However, these responses could also create a written record of admissions to which OSHA can hold the employer accountable, and any supporting documentation may be closely scrutinized and potentially used to create liability. Thus, employers must be strategic about the information they share at this early stage and should ensure there is a procedure in place for managing and developing these responses.
Yesterday OSHA announced and today OSHA officially published its Final Rule amending its Electronic Recordkeeping Rule. After years of advocacy for change to (or to rescind) OSHA’s controversial Obama-era rule to “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” (aka the E-Recordkeeping Rule), and a transition to the de-regulatory platform of the Trump Administration, OSHA has finally approved changes (hopefully just the first step) to pare down the E-Recordkeeping Rule.
On July 30, 2018, OSHA announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend the E-Recordkeeping Rule. 83 Fed. Reg. 36494 (July 30, 2018). The proposed Rule included only one significant change to the current regulation. Specifically, the proposal sought to rescind the requirement for the largest employers — those with individual establishments with 250 or more employees — to annually submit to OSHA’s online web portal the data from their 300 logs and 301 detailed incident reports of recorded injuries and illnesses.
The proposal left intact the requirement for these large employers and many more smaller employers to annually submit 300A annual summary data. Perhaps even more concerning to employers than leaving in place a portion of the electronic data submission requirements, the final rule does not disturb in any manner the controversial and duplicative “anti-retaliation” provisions, or the interpretations of those provisions included in the Preamble to the 2016 Final Rule. These are the provisions that endeavored to restrict employers’ authority to discipline employees for late injury reporting or for safety violations, as well as limit employer’s ability to perform post-incident drug testing and to provide safety incentives. For more information about these elements of the E-Recordkeeping Rule, check out our previous blog article regarding the E-Recordkeeping Anti-Retaliation provisions.
Tortured History and Difficulties Implementing E-Recordkeeping
Historically, unless OSHA opened an enforcement inspection at an employer’s workplace or the Bureau of Labor Statistics requested an employer participate in its annual injury data survey, employers’ injury and illness recordkeeping data was maintained internally. In a major policy shift, President Obama’s OSHA Continue reading →
We are now two years into the Trump Administration, and we have seen a mixed bag of changes in the OSHA enforcement and regulatory landscape. We have watched some late Obama-era OSHA rules get repealed by the Congressional Review Act or delayed and amended through deregulatory rulemaking. We have seen some efforts to boost up the VPP Program and other cooperative programs—the sorts of policy shifts at OSHA many expect in a transition to a republican administration. However, we have also been surprised by OSHA increasing the number of inspections, setting records for the number of $100K+ enforcement actions, and continuing to issue hard hitting press releases. And most surprising of all, OSHA still does not have a Senate-approved Assistant Secretary—the longest ever wait for a permanent OSHA Administrator.
As we move into the out years of Pres. Trump’s first term, we expect more reshuffling of OSHA’s enforcement priorities and policies, and more surprises, so it is critical to stay abreast of OSHA developments. This complimentary 2019 OSHA Webinar Series, presented by the OSHA-specialist attorneys inConn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group, is designed to give employers insight into changes and developments at OSHA during this unpredictable time.
OSHA guidance states that “if an employee can perform their job functions in a manner which does not pose a safety hazard to themselves or others, the fact they have a disability is irrelevant.” But under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it can be difficult to determine when and how to accommodate a disability while also protecting safety of disabled employees and their co-workers. This assessment is further complicated when employers are unaware a disability may cause or contribute to a workplace hazard. It is important to understand the law in this context, especially due to America’s aging workforce.
The ADA also requires medical information related to a disability be kept confidential, yet OSHA mandates certain information be provided on OSHA injuries and illness recordkeeping Logs. A disability may also impact whether and how an injury is recorded. Likewise, both the ADA and OSHA rules impact employee drug testing and handling drug test information. Therefore, it is critical for employers to understand the intersection between the ADA and OSHA.
This complimentary program will feature panel discussions with representatives from EEOC, NLRB, and OSHA addressing key policy trends and regulatory developments. They will be joined by senior corporate counsel from multinational corporations and Conn Maciel Carey’s Labor & Employment and OSHA specialist attorneys. There will also be moderated breakout roundtable sessions covering issues of concern to various industry segments.
1:00 PM – Registration and Networking
1:30 PM – OSHA Panel
Angie Loftus (OSHA Area Director – Chicago North Area Office)
After years of advocacy for change to (or to rescind) OSHA’s controversial Obama-era rule to “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” (aka the E-Recordkeeping Rule), and a transition to the de-regulatory platform of the Trump Administration, OSHA has taken a step (hopefully just the first step) to pare down the E-Recordkeeping Rule. Specifically, OSHA announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend the E-Recordkeeping Rule. While the proposed change will undoubtedly be welcomed by Industry, the scope of the proposed change, however, does not address most of the fundamental concerns employers have repeatedly raised about the controversial rule.
The Proposed Rule includes only one significant change to the current regulation. The proposal seeks to eliminate the requirement for the largest employers, those with establishments with 250 or more employees, to annually submit to OSHA the data from their 300 logs and 301 detailed incident reports of recorded injuries and illnesses via OSHA’s new online web portal. However, the proposal leaves intact the concerning requirements for these large employers and many smaller employers to annually submit 300A annual summary data via OSHA’s electronic portal.
Perhaps even more concerning to employers than leaving in place a portion of the electronic data submission requirements, the proposed rule does not disturb in any manner the highly controversial “anti-retaliation” provisions, or the interpretations of those provisions included in the 2016 final rule preamble. In addition to establishing requirements for electronic submission of injury and illness recordkeeping data, the 2016 E-Recordkeeping Rule endeavored to restrict employers’ rights to adopt employee injury reporting policies and expanded OSHA’s enforcement authority by introducing a vague new set of “anti-retaliation” provisions.
Employers’ perceptions about their legal responsibilities for certain workers is not always reality, particularly in the context of oft-changing interpretations of what constitutes an employer-employee relationship. An employer may classify workers as a temp or independent contractor, but that does not mean DOL agrees. At the tail end of the Obama Admin., DOL issued guidance that a majority of workers should be treated as employees, insinuating that in most cases, employers are accountable for the obligations of an employer-employee relationship. However, the Trump Admin. appears is shifting gears. That guidance was withdrawn by new Sec. of Labor Acosta. Congress has also begun to undercut the broad joint-employer standard established by the NLRB in Browning-Ferris, by revisiting language in applicable laws. It remains essential for employers to carefully evaluate employment relationships and their own functions in the multi-employer context.
Even if there is no legal employer-employee relationship, companies may have safety obligations and liability depending on their role at multi-employer worksites or when using temporary workers. Protection of temporary workers was a priority of OSHA in the prior Admin., and the guidance developed in that context remains the current standard for host employers and staffing agencies. OSHA has also stood by its multi-employer policy, though it is being challenged in federal court.